Stephen Rhys Thomas

University of Southampton


Stephen Rhys-Thomas

RCUK NEMODE Session — Friday 13th June 2014, 2:45pm


TITLE | Here Be Dragons: Initial Findings of the EPSRC Meaningful Consent Project

ABSTRACT | This paper will outline the initial findings of an EPSRC-funded multidisciplinary workshop on the challenges of establishing and managing meaningful consent in the context of digital transactions, conducted with an international panel of participants representing technology, business and policy perspectives, and tasked with mapping the current landscape and outlining the future research agenda. The first part of the workshop explored the current ‘Landscape of Consent’ from separate Technology, Policy and Business perspectives, identifying a profound lack of transparency in digital transactions as a major problem from all perspectives. The specific domain challenges for technology, policy and business are examined. The second part of the workshop focused on the clarities, uncertainties and priorities for research, concluding that the problems are certainly significant and international, with uncertainty grouped around three principal axes: Technology and Data, People, Rights and Ethics, and the Management of Regulation. New research needs were identified in at least three major areas: New Business Models, Technologies and Implementation, and New Directions in Policy. Further unknowns highlighted included the economic and business value of online privacy and digital consent, the taxonomy of consentable transactions, the scope for assistive technologies to automate and assist consent management, and the behavioural economics of consent. The combination of these unknowns frames a grand challenge in assessing the implications of consent for technology, economics, business and policy.

BIOGRAPHY | Dr. Stephen Rhys Thomas is a former Cambridge neuroscientist with two decades’ experience in the high-tech and bio-tech sectors, where he was the originator of numerous corporate technology and business strategies at world-class, research-driven, complex-system businesses, including Merck & Co., Hewlett Packard Laboratories, GSK, Oracle and Accenture. He has worked and consulted in all phases of innovation from discovery through marketing to implementation, in research, technical, executive, and consultative roles, and has brought $100m global software products to market. Over the past decade he has been a Partner or founder in both mainstream and niche consulting companies serving blue-chip and start-up clients in the high-tech and bio-tech sectors, and is a qualified Member of the Institute of Directors. He joined the School of Management from industry to pursue research into Technology Innovation and Digital Marketing; current research projects include Barriers to Open Innovation in Biotech, and Broken Models, a study of Disintermediation Candidates in the Digital MarketSpace.