An FT Business Book of the Month (April 2021)

The book that will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about data, privacy and the future of Big Tech.


Good Data brings a breath of fresh air, an invigorating blast of common sense, to the debate about our digital world. In place of scare stories about surveillance and exploitation, the book provides new insights from an expert, and pragmatic suggestions about how we can make data work for us as a shared resource. This is an essential read for anybody interested in shaping a positive digital future

Diane Coyle, Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge

Good Data: An Optimist’s Guide to Our Digital Future by Sam Gilbert is out now.

About Sam

Sam Gilbert is an affiliated researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge.

An expert in data-driven marketing, he was employee number one and chief marketing officer at Bought By Many, an award-winning fintech start-up named as one of Wired’s hottest start-ups in Europe and ranked in the Sunday Times TechTrack100 list of the UK’s fastest growing companies. Previously, he was head of strategy and development at the data company Experian and head of consumer finance at Santander.

He lives in Copenhagen.

sjg216 at cam dot ac dot uk

Agent: Jonathan Conway

Praise for Good Data

Good Data weaves some thorny issues into a personal story that is positive, interesting, easy to read and provides valuable insight”

Peter Turner, Chief Commercial Officer, Avast PLC

“There is increasing concern about how the big tech companies use – and abuse – our data. In this highly readable book, Sam Gilbert sets out how this data can be used for good, and describes how to think about controlling big tech while still achieving the positive benefits from it”

Julian Huppert, Director, The Intellectual Forum

“I am learning a lot from this thoughtful book about how big data could make life better”

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Author of Everybody Lies: What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

“Just read the bit about Palantir. I think you’ve managed to say something both sane and interesting”

Rowland Manthorpe, Technology Correspondent, Sky News

“Meta Data”

The most commonly-asked questions about data, as revealed by…Google search data.

  • Amazon Data
    • Are Alexa devices always listening?
    • Can Alexa spy on you?
    • Is Amazon Echo safe?
    • Why Alexa is bad
    • Are Amazon lockers safe?
    • Why doesn’t Amazon pay tax?
    • How Amazon makes money
  • Apple Data
    • Can the Apple Watch track sleep?
    • Why Apple phones are bad
    • Why Apple is a bad company
  • Big Data and Data Science
    • What is big data?
    • What is data science?
    • What makes a good data scientist?
    • What is data analysis?
    • What does a data analyst do?
    • What is data mining?
  • Data Rights
    • What is data ethics?
    • Are data rights human rights?
    • What data collection methods are there?
    • How is data collected?
    • How to find our what data a company has on you
    • How long can a company keep your data?
  • Deleting Data
    • Can Facebook messages be deleted?
    • How to delete all your Tinder data
    • When data is deleted, where does it go?

More of Sam’s Thinking

The power and legitimacy of Big Tech companies

Digital Legitimacy Scorecard, April 2021

“Surveillance capitalism – an idea that won’t stand up?” (Podcast interview with Vicki Shotbolt & Geraldine Bedell), Parent Zone, March 2021

Elon Musk ‘fills the gap left behind by Donald Trump’ as Twitter’s most controversial public figure, expert claims” (by Joe Pinkstone), Mail Online, March 2021

Facebook, Australia’s Media Bargaining Law, and Political Moralizing“, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, March 2021

Can rentier capitalism explain Big Tech?“, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, February 2021

“Data Ethics and Multinational Technology Companies” (with Professor Peter Williamson), UK-China Global Issues Dialogue Centre, July 2020

Chinese news sites have huge Facebook followings. Why?“, Medium, May 2019

Google data in social science research and public policy

Well-being increased during the first UK lockdown – but not for everyone“, LSE British Politics and Policy, December 2020

We are horribly sexist to female politicians. Google data proves it” (by Rowland Manthorpe), Wired, August 2020

Search Listening: How not-for-profits should be using search data to truly understand the public” (video with Sophie Coley & Hannah Harris), AnswerThePublic, August 2020

Covid-19 and Subjective Well-Being” (with Dr Roberto Foa & Dr Mark Fabian), Bennett Institute for Public Policy, July 2020

Search results are helping tackle COVID-19 – now we should use them to develop policies” (by Chris Stokel-Walker), Apolitical, July 2020

“Could search engines predict the spread of coronavirus?”, BBC News, June 2020

How can Google search help with the Covid-19 response?“, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, April 2020

Using Google data for policy research“, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, December 2019

“Tapping into the hidden power of big search data”, SAGE Ocean, June 2019

Public-purpose tech

“Tech Tent: The end of ad tracking?” (by Rory Cellan-Jones), BBC News, April 2021

Should Governments be Data Optimists?“, StateUp, March 2021

How political technologists and social science researchers can work together to renew democracy” (discussion paper), June 2020

In a pandemic, what use is Google?“, SAGE Ocean, June 2020

Thinking and Doing Institutions” (discussion paper on a new model for think tanks), April 2020

“Infodemiology” in The Coronavirus Tech Handbook, April 2020

FinTech and InsurTech

ClearScore and first-mover disadvantage“, LinkedIn, March 2018

“7 Practical Ideas for Blockchain Insurance Products”, Bought By Many, June 2017

Women in Power“, LinkedIn, March 2017

Admiral and anti-social data“, Oxbow Partners, November 2016

“Why UK FinTech needs its hand bitten, Bought By Many, April 2016

The Hype Cycle of Insurance Disruption“, Insurance Thought Leadership, February 2016

Please note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.