Data Privacy Using as an agent in Doc Searls’ Giant Zero

As the internet subsumes the concepts of distance and time, using our personal agency to create control over our own world becomes ever more important.

Doc Searls, internet visionary and advisor, identifies the lack of distance online that we are used to in the physical world as a Giant Zero and is clear that we need to understand the ramifications of this new environment fully before we can begin to make the most of it.

In a post on his Harvard blog, he identifies nine key elements needed to create this new world successfully, of which two – privacy and personal agency – are particularly pertinent to

He contends – and we agree – that distance has always been used to give “some measure of privacy” in the physical world – but that on the Giant Zero, the world with no distance, it is “ridiculously easy for anyone or anything to spy our browsings and emailings”.

As we have already examined in our blog on the concept of digital privacy, offers a more private world by allowing users to take back control of their information, in an enhanced form as it is all in one place, and then do what they wish with all that data.

But it is the section concerning agency, where comes most into its own.

As Doc said: “The original meaning of agency (derived from the Latin word agere, meaning “to do”), is the power to act with full effect in the world. We lost a lot of that when Industry won the Industrial Revolution. We still lose a little bit every time we click “accept” to one-sided terms the other party can change and we can’t.

“We also lose power every time we acquiesce to marketers who call us “assets” they “target,” “capture,” “acquire,” “manage,” “control” and “lock in” as if we were slaves or cattle. In The Giant Zero, however, we can come to the market as equals, in full control of our data and able to bring far more intelligence to the market’s table than companies can ever get through data gathered by surveillance and fed into guesswork mills that: a) stupidly assume that we are always buying something and b) still guess wrong at rates that round to 100% of the time.

“All we need to do is prove that free customers are more valuable than captive ones — to the whole economy. Which we can if we build our own tools for both independence and engagement.” is one of those tool he mentions, bringing agency to each and every user, by putting them back in control of their data, giving them the tools to unlock it and then letting them decide what they want to do with it and where they are happy for it to go.

Crucially, will become an even greater force for agency later this year when our Permissioned Access model arrives, which will allow users to share or exchange their data directly with businesses in return for personalised benefits.

And as businesses benefit as well from the 100 per cent accurate data they are able to see and use in this way, it is a truly a win-win situation for all.

So all hail the Giant Zero – a model for a future which is actively working towards.