A big problem many of us working in the personal data economy face on a regular basis is the why factor from those we talk to.
Why should I care about my personal data? Why does it matter that Facebook and Google know so much about me? Why does it matter that I don’t have control over the data that I create and generate? What’s in it for me?
We need to make it easy to imagine a world where individuals can do more with their data.
The fact is that all of our personal data has value, primarily as our own unique digital footprint which gives us greater insight into the detail of our own lives. But accurate and deep data also has huge value to businesses who are desperate for it to innovate – and they’re increasingly open to value swaps in exchange for access to it, which puts a physical price on it too.
Thankfully, change about what is acceptable behaviour around privacy in society at large is coming – and the European GDPR regulations which come into force in May next year and put users firmly back in control of what happens to their own data will help speed this along.
But in the meantime, how do we explain why people should care about their data?
At digi.me, we like to focus on the benefits. Yes, all sorts of irritating marketing activity occurs online because companies are currently able to scrape and sell on data from the transactions and searches we carry out online.
But personal data ownership is so much more than simply avoiding badly-targeted advertising following us around the web. It’s having all the pieces of the personal jigsaw that make up your life all in one place, together, so that you can gain greater insight from the whole.
Think about your health for a second. Regardless of where you live, your full health data is never available to you instantly when you need it. So a new doctor, or consultant, or hospital has to request what it needs and wait for it to be sent over. Slow, time-consuming – and rapidly becoming unnecessary.
Think how much more convenient – and safer – it would be if you could produce your own history, instantly, when needed. Always complete, always up to date – better for you, and the medical professionals treating you too.
Then look at your finances. Most people these days have multiple accounts and cards, meaning our spending history is fragmented between many silos. How much better if we could see this all in one place? See, instantly, where our biggest or most unnecessary outgoings were, and how we might save for something that currently seems beyond our reach?
The technology for both of these real-life examples exists – in digi.me and others – so the bigger challenge remains around explaining to those who currently don’t understand why ownership of data is critical to a better future for all of us.
Consent is at the heart of this, and we must treat personal data in the same way as we view other precious possessions.
It is valuable and it is ours, created by and belonging to us, and so only we should decide who can have access to it and why.