As the world’s premier public service broadcaster, the BBC has a mission to act as a leader of innovation in the media landscape in service of that public value. The BBC is evolving into a digital-first media organization, which has prompted its leaders and researchers to reexamine how data collection practices shape the BBC’s relationship with its audience. With consumer trust levels at an all-time low and privacy concerns at an all-time high, how can the BBC show its audience and the rest of the media industry what trustworthy personal data management looks like? And how can the BBC use this new position of trust to provide even better services to its audience?
In response to these questions, the BBC Research and Development team built a solution that empowers its users to view and make choices about their own data. The project—called BBC Together + Data Pod—pairs a social TV-watching experience with unprecedented access to one’s own BBC viewing data. The offering relies on personal data stores (Pods) that use Inrupt’s Enterprise Solid Server technology to deliver new insights to the BBC and its users.
Media consumers are becoming more concerned with how their personal data is used: According to research cited by the BBC, at least 39 organizations hold personal data on the average UK citizen. And 82% of people are unsure of what personal information companies hold about them. As a global leader in public broadcasting, the BBC has the ability to address these concerns and shape the future of the media landscape by creating a new digital ecosystem based on accessibility, accountability, and human values.
The BBC’s challenge is to create a model where users can access the data they generate and consent to its usage by the BBC. To achieve this goal, the BBC needs to:
The BBC first started working with Solid and Inrupt in 2019, attracted by the principles of universality and openness embodied in Solid technology. Their research with Solid eventually led to the My PDS project in 2021, which used interoperable Solid Pods to pull in viewing and listening data from Netflix and Spotify. The data was then used to provide each user with improved streaming recommendations.
Confident of Solid and Inrupt’s solution, and using insights gained from the My PDS proof of concept, the BBC produced BBC Together + Data Pod, its first public-facing application using Solid technology, in 2022.
BBC Together + Data Pod is a social TV experience that allows users to watch iPlayer shows together. Detailed data from those “watch parties” is stored in the private Solid Pods of the users, where the BBC cannot see it. After the watch party, the BBC makes the data available to the user, who has the option to edit, delete, or share the data with the BBC to help build future services.
In producing its first public-facing Solid application, the BBC has taken a first step in redefining how it uses data to deliver its services. It has created the means of using data across departments to improve BBC services. According to Nick North, the BBC’s Director of Audiences, users could eventually have the opportunity to share their personal data to enhance the experience of everything they do, including every touchpoint they have with the BBC and every interaction they have with other companies in the media market.
The BBC’s app Together + Data Pod uses permissions, sharing, and consent to collect better user data. With data that is shared freely, the user data will contain improved personal context and preferences that will ultimately improve BBC services and content recommendations.
The following diagram was adapted from a Solid World Presentation in November 2022.
In creating the the Together + Data Pod application, the BBC was able to:
In November 2022, members of the BBC Research & Development team appeared on Solid World to explain why they chose to work with Solid. They emphasized greater data insights and consent management, and walked through how they presented Solid Pods to a general audience.
By experiencing Solid through applications like BBC Together + Data Pod, audiences learn that their contributions generate value. They can improve the BBC’s products and services and unlock new value for themselves as they combine data sets or easily share information with other media organizations.