Last week Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer – Stephen Deadman, wrote about the need to refocus the debate around personal data. It was a thought provoking article where Stephen talks about the need for a kind of a new coalition between tech companies on the use of personal data.
I had also written the week earlier on my blog on the trends that I saw – Transformation of software vendors as data vendors. As I read his piece, some interesting thoughts, challenges & framework to use personal data came to my mind. It also needs a variety of stakeholders – policy makers, governments, tech companies and citizen groups across the world to come together. Also, Doc Searls and Dan Mitchell who I follow, added a lot of perspectives around this topic and the initiatives that are being undertaken.
The key issue that came to my mind was, who is more empowered today to use personal data and who is the owner of personal data. I strongly feel, the individual is highly dis-empowered today when it comes to use of his or her own personal data. Very often, I find tick boxes, check boxes, cookies that outlines all kinds of T&Cs that we literally have no control of this data. Also, the way marketers treat this data, is purely in terms of economics and there is no strand of trust, whatsoever. It represents an unequal relationship, an accelerating decay of distrust for the individual when it comes to her personal data.
When it comes to personal data, the internet has disrupted national boundaries. The data individuals leave behind, for example in Uber or Amazon or Facebook or Google or Apple to put it mildly is subject to interpretation on ownership. When it comes to offline identity, governments have found a solution with Social Security numbers or Citizenship or the like. But, when it comes to personal data, the rules are however archaic.
The coming of a Data Passport Era
There is a need to build a ecosystem by linking offline identities of individuals thro' what I believe will look like Data Passports. This will be fundamental to building a data coalition that Stephen talks about across companies. Data Passports are an equivalent of Data Vaults that will be owned by the individuals against their passports, mobile devices, broadband connections, banking relationships etc. etc. Data Passports will have streams of an individual's personal data. This massive repository will have links to personal data of individuals and will be classified with specific lifestyle and usage behaviour tags. Like ICANN, there is a need for a non-for-profit organization – called DCANN( Data Corporation of Assigned Names & Numbers) which will be linked to the massive Data Passport APIs across various countries & personal data passport vaults.
This data passport vault, which will be owned by the individual along with other identities, will have permissions from individuals to share specific strands of data for mutually beneficial economic and social value. This kind of a data passport platform will then be shared amongst companies & governments to derive value thro' mutual exchange of trust.
This is a long journey that needs to be taken to empower and give the control back of personal data to individuals themselves. It needs a new kind of data coalition that calls for collaboration, sharing, flexibility and mindset change across borders, governments & companies to enable this.