Online privacy – is there a simple route to the ‘Internet of Me’?

Privacy concerns continue to grow over personal data use and leaks, and this week those concerns were highlighted in the New Scientist in their editorial (29th August – https://www.newscientist.com/issue/3036).  From reflecting the opinion of many that “Privacy is dead”: to asking how we got here, “Data has become currency”; to thinking about solutions, “Such systems are complex”; to worrying that if the effort to restore privacy doesn’t start soon then “vested interests may become too deeply entrenched to overturn”.

If we think the solution is complex as suggested by the New Scientist, then it is less likely we’ll find the right answer; however, I would like to suggest that there is in fact a very simple solution.

To see what that simple solution is we need to think why our data is so valuable and therefore why businesses are trying to track us. The answer is because the businesses believe they can provide better services , better convenience or sell more to us if they know who we are in many different dimensions.  If this were not true then there would be no value in our data and no value in tracking us.

But how good is the data they get? – not very is the actual answer. This is why of course ever more complex and invasive methods of tracking and associating data are being deployed – at great cost.  Even then the best anyone gets is a thin slice of you which can be 30-50% wrong.

Even this poor performance is threatened by the new ad blocking, do not track and other privacy ‘solutions’ now being deployed.  No one is winning here: not the individual nor the businesses.

Is there a better way? – to use the marketers phrase a “win-win” for both consumers and businesses? The answer is yes there is and what is more it is straightforward.

If I own, hold and control all my own data then businesses can come direct to me and ask for that data.  They get access to Rich data: data which covers a much wider set than they can get by tracking; which is deeper in time; which is 100% accurate, with no association errors (it is about me because it comes from me); which is fully permissioned; which is simple to get – just one person to come and ask.  If a business can get Rich data easily and very cheaply then why would they pay more for worse data obtained through tracking? Not only would they pay more for less they would also not get our trust.

By coming direct to us they get Rich data, cheaper, easier and with our trust.  When more and more businesses start to do this the market for tracked data will diminish and then disappear – a better solution for everyone.

How do we get there? We need software in place which gathers and holds our data for us on our own devices and cloud infrastructure, and which enable businesses to come to us for data which we can authorise (or not).  Luckily this process has started already, for example our company digi.me – see http://digi.me/video, and there will be others joining the party too.

Privacy is not an insoluble problem, nor a difficult win. You just have to look at the motives of everyone involved and fashion a simple win-win solution.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famous 19th century American physician and writer said: “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity but I’d give my life for simplicity on the far side of complexity”.

With regards to privacy that simple solution the other side of complexity exists – it is that we own and control our own data on our own devices.  An “Internet of Me”, where I am truly the centre of my data world.

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