The US Senate’s vote to roll back rules preventing ISPs from collecting and selling personal data has generated an enormous amount of controversy.
On the one hand, de-regulating the stifled and stagnating US economy is a necessary move to restart growth and boost innovation.
And of course everyone understands businesses want and need data – it’s their fuel, their magic juice – and something they rely on heavily to try and stay ahead of their competitors.
But those arguments, valid as they are to a degree, overlook the big elephant in the room: consent. Specifically, the rights of individuals to have a say in what happens to some pretty sensitive personal data collected about them through their full browsing history.
Consent is the missing ingredient in this current debate – and its omission means all sides lose out.
Individuals, of course, lose out in this equation because their personal data is being sold on behind their backs without their consent, or indeed without any benefit to them.
But businesses are losing too because they would get better quality, more useful data if they went direct to the source – the individual themselves – and offered something desirable as an exchange.
Additionally, their ability to thrive depends on them being able to deliver the right offer to the right person at the right time. This, in turn, requires better engagement overall, and engagement means conversation. What better way to have a conversation then by starting the relationship asking for data rather than taking or buying it?
Of course, here at digi.me, where we have built our vision on the Internet of Me principles and ideals of the individual at the centre of their connected world, in control of what happens to their data, it’s no big surprise which side we are leaning towards.
But it’s clear there are an ongoing debate and awareness-raising to be had about ethics and best practice around the issue of personal data.
While the House has now also voted in favour of this bill, it’s not completely clear whether the White House will sign it without amendments.
But President Trump has said time and time again that he is the people’s voice – and now is a perfect time for this new Administration to hear this voice.
There are increasingly ways, such as digi.me, for both privacy and data-sharing to be compatible, and these should be explored – although consent is always the better choice, resulting as it does in a more meaningful dialogue.
The bottom line here is that the ISPs are acting perfectly legally, and feeding businesses who are desperate for data and know – at the moment – of no other way to get it.
This change will come, both in awareness and through legislation such as the EU GDPR, which gives many more rights back to individuals around their personal data, and which we firmly believe will prove to be a boon to businesses and innovation when it comes into law next year.
But until then the focus should not be on condemnation or scorn, but showing a better way through the use of data consented at the source.
Then, and only then, can we move forward into a world where our data is ours alone and we share it only through choice.