New Report Explores Socially Beneficial Uses of Core Data

A new joint-study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) and the Policy and Economic Research Council (PERC) finds that many companies’ “core” data assets are used for other, non-core, ancillary applications that are often overlooked. It looks at how data makes outcomes more efficient in public safety, health, financial inclusion, and economic development. While the report is titled “Data for Good,” these are not simply one-off donations of data to charitable causes. This report raises important considerations for policymakers amidst the national privacy legislation debate, regarding our interrelated, complex, and dynamic data ecosystem. Data for Good constitutes Part III in C_TEC’s U.S. Data Ecosystem series.


In the realm of public safety, the report focused on fraud prevention and citizen security. Fraud prevention was a principal theme in Part II of the U.S. Data Ecosystem series, Data Flows, Technology, and the Need for National Privacy Legislation, which explained a decade of declining fraud losses, given an increasing incidence of data breaches and volume of breached records, by increased investments in and use of sophisticated data-enabled security solutions. Data is used to develop tools that detect and prevent online fraud, as well as authenticate online transactions more generally. Concerning citizen security, data tools developed to aid law enforcement work to improve speed and efficiency that in turn, can translate to increased public safety. The report features several compelling cases involving counter-terrorism, human trafficking, and even smartly fighting forest fires.


In the healthcare sector, data collection and analysis allow for greater insight into health concerns and greater personalization of care. This was the impetus for the federal government and healthcare sector’s massive investment in electronic health records (EHR). Social determinants of health (SDOH) is a complementary set of tools for physicians while the transition from paper continues, which accounts for many health factors a doctor would not necessarily probe at a check-up, for example, whether a patient is socially isolated. Doctors are increasingly turning to SDOH data to improve the quality of care they deliver and improve their ability to practice medicine their way. Consistent with early findings on the cost and efficacy benefits of EHR, early evidence on the use of SDOH data by physicians is similarly promising.


Financial inclusion and economic development are key organizational missions of PERC. The financial inclusion section reviewed decades of PERC research and findings that data-driven solutions, such as credit scoring and automated underwriting have improved lending, reduced origination costs, increased financial inclusion, and have made lending fairer. Small businesses also use data to make decisions and are the main drivers of economic development in their neighborhoods. Technology gives them digital presence, efficient ways to connect with customers, and systems that enable them to actually make a sale and make a profit.


Report co-author and PERC President Dr. Michael Turner said, “Appreciating the myriad ways data are used to the benefit of society—and not just for commerce—should be a crucial aspect of any discussion on potential national privacy legislation.”