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5 ways to have more control over the data you create

Our technology dominated lives have created a mountain of data for companies to use and profit from.

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives us greater rights over this data. But how can you find out more about the data you've created? And what could you do to have more control?

The latest episode of the Tomorrow's World podcast explores the possibilities.

Here are our top five takeaways.

1. Find out more about what happens to your data

Internet pioneer Martha Lane-Fox, Chancellor of The Open University, has set up think tank Doteveryone to push for responsible technology for the good of society.

Research by the think tank has shown the UK population’s awareness of data and its uses is rather vague.

45% of UK citizens don’t realise adverts are targeted based on information they’ve shared with websites or social media, Doteveryone found.

83% of UK citizens don’t realise information shared by other people is collected about them, and 79% of UK citizens don’t realise data can be collected so companies can decide prices they pay, the think tank says.

62% of UK citizens don’t realise the news they see online can depend on who they are connected to on social media, and two thirds of UK citizens don’t realise companies make money from information that’s gathered about them, the Doteveryone research found.

2. Are you happy with how your data is used?

Michael Veale is technology policy researcher at University College London. He believes the public need to have a bigger say in holding companies to account over data use.

"Different studies have shown that women are offered jobs that pay less well than men – and that’s on the basis of their internet browsing profile.

"Jobs or housing adverts as well have not been offered to ethnic minorities.

"All of these are really problematic things and require you to not only take control over your own data profile but hold the companies who are doing that targeting to account."

Could your personal information affect your job prospects?

3. Discover how much data you've already created

Since the Cambridge Analytica revelations, it’s become more widely known that it’s possible to download your Facebook data, but there are numerous other apps and companies that hold information.

Smart phone users can discover how Google can have “a timeline of our physical movements”.

In the Tomorrow’s World podcast, presenter Britt Wray discovers just how detailed this data is when she downloads her location tracking data from her phone.

"I just put in a specific date – January 1 2015 - and it zoomed in to a certain neighbourhood in Toronto and it’s showing the path I walked…over to my friend’s kid’s nursery," she says.

To access your data held in this way either visit or interrogate the locations data on your smartphone.

Maps features on smartphones may help you get from A to B, but their tracking data can be extensive

4. Make plans for your own death

You don’t escape. Even in death.

"GDPR does not cover personal data of the dead, or deceased personal data. It excludes it actually,” says Dr Edina Harbinja, senior lecturer in law at the University of Hertfordshire.

You can make preparations though, and bequeath your data in case of death or consign it to the bin.

For example, in Google, use Inactive Account Manager to decide a period of inactivity after which Google passes the data on to a beneficiary or deletes it.

5. Save someone's life, maybe even yours

Data can potentially be life saving.

Eric Schadt is CEO of Sema4, a health information company based in Connecticut, US. He says our data could be used for a greater good.

"Data donation is a patient, or even consumer, making available data that is generated on them in the context of their medical care for researchers to pursue a better understanding of disease.

"So, it’s an individual contributing information for the greater research good, which we also view as coming back and having a favourable impact on the patient themselves."

In the UK, earlier this year, former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell donated her medical data to the Universal Cancer Databank, weeks before her death from brain cancer.

She said she felt a "sense of responsibility" to pave the way for others.

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