The support of the inhabitants of Rennes Métropole for data sharing is one of the conditions for the Rudi platform's success. How do these citizens perceive the project? Under what conditions and with what guarantees are they willing to share their data? To answer these questions, Christine Petr and Pascale Ertus from the Laboratoire d'Economie et de Gestion de l'Ouest (University of Southern Brittany) conducted an exploratory survey in May 2020. The researchers interviewed around thirty inhabitants in semi-directive qualitative interviews.
This survey aims to better understand citizens' perceptions and expectations vis-à-vis the local public actor and anticipate their adhesion conditions to the platform. The analysis of these interviews (almost 150 pages of verbatims) provides relevant lessons for Rudi and the development of the platform.
What do we agree to share, and with whom? First of all, there is a certain ambivalence towards the idea of sharing data with the community. There is mistrust regarding the use by the local authority of data relating to household consumption (of water or energy, for example) or individual preferences. Therefore, a large majority of respondents are opposed to the use of micro-targeting techniques by local authorities, similar to what can be done online by the major digital platforms. The fear of surveillance and geolocation of individuals, already identified many times in previous studies, is confirmed. However, the proximity to the local authority is likely to moderate or temper this fear to a certain extent.
Why share data with the public stakeholder? The LEGO survey provides a new and original look at citizens' motivations. The collective interest thus appears to be the primary motivation. Citizens are willing to share their data with the public player if its use contributes to the collective well-being and the general interest, for example, in urban planning and development where data can enable better public decisions. Individual interest is a side effect induced, in particular, by the development of new services that make daily life more comfortable. This result is impressive because it demonstrates the collective's importance rather than the individual dimension in the adherence to data sharing. It also runs counter to the usual discourse on individual rationality and the search for personal profit, for example, through the monetisation of individual data. Remarkably, none of the participants in this survey makes the monetisation of their data a prerequisite for sharing it with the local public actor.
Towards a conceptual model for the platform. Christine Petr and Pascale Ertus propose a first model to understand why and under what conditions citizens would be inclined to participate in the platform set up by Rudi. The starting point is institutional legitimacy. The local authority is perceived as legitimate to set up such a data-sharing mechanism. There is also a strong link between proximity and trust: the closer the public actor is considered (e.g. my municipality rather than my region), the higher the trust level. Other surveys, for example, on the perception of elected representatives, had already underlined the importance of this notion of proximity. Thus, over the last ten years, 60% of French people have declared that they trust the mayor of their municipality, compared with 25 to 30% for national decision-makers such as the Prime minister (Baromètre de la Confiance, Cevipof Sciences Po 2009-2019).
We can, therefore, see a link between institutional legitimacy and trust. But the effective participation of citizens is also strengthened by guarantors who provide security and control. The assurance of privacy and the dynamic control of consent are part of this. This first part of the model describes how citizens can participate for the first time in the Rudi initiative by agreeing to share their data for a defined purpose and project.
The repeated adhesion of citizens to the platform's use and loyalty is conditioned by two other elements: guarantees and commitments. Cybersecurity, the territorialisation of data storage or the storage period, are guaranteed; they cannot be effectively controlled by citizens, who must rely on the local authority's declarations. Conversely, individuals are in a position to verify that the commitments made are kept. This concerns, in particular, the control, by individuals themselves, of the data they share, but also clear and complete information on the public decisions taken based on these data.
Finally, the exploratory survey also makes it possible to identify points of vigilance. The first concerns the fear of losing social ties, the fact that the switchover to digital technology will reduce interpersonal relations. The second point of attention concerns the respect of commitments: the failure to comply with guarantees and obligations can seriously jeopardise the community's trust if promises and duties are not respected. Finally, the individuals surveyed strongly expressed their opposition to the commercial use of their data.
In general, the Rudi project is perceived favourably by the inhabitants who took part in this survey. The platform is seen as a tool for public decision-making based on localised and contextualised information. In the end, it is indeed the general interest and the search for collective well-being that is the common goal of Rudi.