Category Archives: Business Intelligence

digi.me raises £4.2M ($6.1m) in Series A funding round

Digi.me, the pioneering start-up revolutionising how consumers and businesses harness the power of personal data, has secured £4.2m ($6.1m) from Series A funding led by global re-insurer Swiss Re.

With the new funds digi.me will accelerate the development and launch of its unique permissioned access platform, which will soon let users bring together wide-ranging data such as health and financial information and share it – if they wish – with businesses in exchange for personalised services, convenience or reward.

Businesses who are granted access to this 100% accurate, rich and deep personal data can develop truly personalised services for their users. Digi.me’s approach delivers a true win-win proposition, enabling a value exchange that is transparent and mutually beneficial, increasing consumer trust as well as opportunities for innovation.

Digi.me founder and chairman Julian Ranger said: “This is a watershed moment for digi.me. Following our extensive work and innovation in the concept of each of us truly owning and controlling our own personal data, this investment enables us to make the Internet of Me available to everyone, consumers and businesses alike.

“This concept, which is better for the individual and also better for businesses who can access rich data with full user permission, while meeting all new data protection rules such as the GDPR, will allow digi.me to accelerate its activities with a number of multi-national companies who we are already working with, and bring further major businesses into our new ecosystem.”

Daniel Ryan, Head of Digital Analytics Catalysts at Swiss Re, said: “People want to be in control of their data, and many have strong views over what they are willing to share and what they want to keep private.  We’re excited about digi.me because it will enable people to go one step further, and provide full transparency over how they can use their data to access services and benefits.”

Digi.me’s current version of the app, which gathers pictures and posts from the major social media networks, already has over 400,000 users in 140 countries. It proved that aggregating personal data streams to bring them to life achieves greater value and personal insight that is impossible to get when that data is scattered across the web.

With the digi.me app, users have their online life at their fingertips with tools including universal search across all platforms, daily flashbacks, the ability to create custom collections of content, data export and more. Soon, it will be possible for users to add their financial and health information. Other streams of personal data will be added in the future.

Digi.me’s unique approach and technology also guarantees that all user data remains wholly private to the individual. Digi.me doesn’t see, touch nor hold any of the personal data downloaded by the user. The app, now available on PC, Mac, iOS and Android, simply aggregates, normalises, indexes and encrypts the data allowing it to be searched, presented and shared in ways that were impossible until now.

The successful Series A funding builds on a very strong period of growth and influence for digi.me. The last 12 months saw the announcements of its partnerships with Toshiba, Lenovo and Evernote and the appointment of Jim Pasquale as Executive Vice President North America as part of its international expansion plans. The company also attracted prestigious members to its advisory board including internet visionaries Doc Searls and Gordon Bell, as well as industry leaders Rafael Marin, Stephanie Liston and Guy Whittaker.

Digi.me, which has now raised £7.1m ($10.2m) since launching in 2009, has huge ambitions and is working on projects with world-leading businesses in the health, finance, FMCG and telco sectors. It is also on course to set up a ‘living lab’ that will be announced later this year.

Digi.me is available on desktop for PC and Mac https://digi.me/download-trial and for mobile on iOS and Android http://try.digi.me/

Journalist? Find our press pack here

digi.me’s start-up story

“Digi.me started life, as many of the best ideas do, as an aside in another conversation that led to a lightbulb going off in my head.

“I was at a board meeting for my innovation hub iBundle in 2009, and one of the directors mentioned he had a friend who had just lost three years’ worth of Facebook interactions after a glitch while changing password wiped his account.

“What a shame, we said, all those posts, photos and comments just gone – and then, realising that there was nothing out there to help you back up your social media, we decided there and then to create an app that did just that.

“And so SocialSafe (digi.me’s original name) was born – a great and easy-to-use social media tool that allowed you to save information and pictures you had posted to your various social media accounts and search them and see the original comments and likes, as well as make your own collections of content and export what you wanted, see your most popular posts and followers and much more!  A key decision was to have this data stored locally on the user’s own device – not on our servers; this was to ensure privacy and also because it was the only way to comply with Facebook’s terms and conditions.

“We got a company in to get it working and made it paid for but cheap, when we probably should have gone for free to grow the user base faster, but regardless it ticked along nicely and got some traction and a bit of press from big industry names like Mashable and Hermione Way.

“But in all honestly my attention was on other products and it was little more than a hobby for the first year, not least because my developers and finances were spread among many projects.

“Then users started asking if they could include Twitter as well and view all of this data they had gathered, so we built a viewer that normalised and aggregrated all the data together so you could look back across all your posts and photos across networks.

“Then I thought it would be great if you could search for something by date, so we built the journal functionality, where you can jump around any dates you choose and find out what you posted on any given day across all your linked networks.

“Demand came from users for back-ups for other social media networks as well, so we started adding the functionality for Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Viadeo and many more – and suddenly it became clear there was massive demand for this kind of service, where people could get their data back somewhere they could see it and then use it how they wanted.

“The defining moment came when I realised that what we were doing was similar to what I had done for the military for 20+ years – bringing disparate data from multiple sources together, normalising and aggregating it and making it available for reuse. Because data was being stored locally, this would allow us to extend the data captured for a user across their entire life whilst retaining privacy, ensuring security and providing control over that data, as we never see, touch or hold it.

“With this lightbulb moment, we started moving development towards the direction we are focused on now – which is gathering the data for the benefit of the user, first and foremost, but also looking to see if we could help them do something with it, over and above selling it on which was (and in many ways is) the most common user data model.

“In 2013, I decided to focus full-time on building digi.me as a business, as it was clear to me that how people viewed personal data and how they felt about companies taking and using it for their own means was undergoing a seismic shift, and I could see that our app spoke to those deeply-held concerns, giving people back control of the data they posted.

“I was excited for the possibilities, particularly after we won Le Prix d’Argent at the Le Web start-up competition later in the year from more than 700 entrants, but as ever when you’re pushing a new idea or concept, things don’t always take off quite as you’d hoped, and correspondingly development and major investment wasn’t always as quick to happen as we’d like.  We had the idea, the team and the product, but we were still early to market – and timing is a key component to success.

“But over time our Permission Access model, which is due to come into being later this year, was developed and evolved – and this impending expansion saw us change our name from SocialSafe, which was well-known but really related only to the (excellent) social media back-up tool it is currently, to digi.me, which reflects the whole-person-and-life-data tool it will soon be.

“Our app will retain its social media back up and aggregation functions, which have already been used by over 350,000 people in over 140 countries, but users will also be able to add their own data from other areas of their life, starting first with financials and health, and moving on to other such as shopping.

“The Permissioned Access aspect will then allow businesses, who want access to these rich, deep datasets that our users will soon hold, to approach them directly and offer them personalised offers (for service, convenience or reward) in exchange for seeing some slices of that data.

“With investment from both the UK and US from people who understood we were doing something important, I started to build a team, bringing more developers on board at the same time as a CEO and CMO – and with them came new opportunities and ideas. Our CEO, Rory Donnelly, lives in France, for example, and got us in as partners on the FNAC security pack over there, which is very popular and where we’re in our third year.

“Then things began to snowball in 2015 as we started looking to the future, and what the personal data economy would look like in another five years. It was clear to us that there had to be a cultural shift, from individuals having things done to their data but unable to access it themselves, to becoming the centre of their connected world, back in control of their data and able to use it as they wished.

“This Internet of Me is the future of the personal data economy, a new model that the current stand-off between ad-tracking and ad-blocking will help create, as businesses and consumers seek a third way that offers universal benefits.  We think this is so important for the whole personal data industry that we are sponsoring and supporting an independent forum to look at the issues surrounding it and to try and build momentum as quickly as possible. http://internetofme.info/

“Meanwhile our app continues to go from strength to strength, with partnerships with Toshiba, Lenovo and Evernote with more to come, and other exciting developments with major players in various industries including health, insurance, banking, telcos and FMCG.

“We’ve also just appointed an EVP, Jim Pasquale, in the US as we continue to grow and expand – so there are exciting times ahead – and I’m delighted to be part of them.

“It all started with a simple comment, burst into life as a result of user comments and a flash of inspiration and now the journey continues with what I believe is a very promising future ahead.”

In privacy sharing, context is king (and hurrah say all of us)

Major new research from America has confirmed what many in the personal data privacy world have long suspected – whether or not people want to share their information hinges largely on the context of the request.

The Pew Research Center found that there were a variety of circumstances under which many Americans would share personal information or permit surveillance in return for getting something of perceived value.

The study of 461 adults and nine online focus groups of 80 people found that the vast majority (54% to 24%) think it would be acceptable for employers to install monitoring cameras after a series of thefts, with almost half (47%) also believing that the basic deal with store loyalty cards, which sees purchases tracked in return for occasional discounts, is acceptable – although another 32% think this is unacceptable.

But interestingly, where the benefit was not as clear cut, involved greater intrusion in their lives, or the ongoing collection of data, the proportion of people prepared to trust and take part fell dramatically.

So when offered a scenario in which their energy bill could be reduced by installing a “smart thermostat” that would monitor their movements around the home, most adults (55% to 27%) considered this an unacceptable trade-off. As one survey respondent explained: “There will be no ‘SMART’ anythings in this household. I have enough personal data being stolen by the government and sold [by companies] to spammers now.”

As the report’s authors concluded: “These findings suggest that the phrase that best captures Americans’ views on the choice between privacy vs. disclosure of personal information is, “It depends.”

“People’s views on the key trade-off of the modern, digital economy – namely, that consumers offer information about themselves in exchange for something of value – are shaped by both the conditions of the deal and the circumstances of their lives.

“In extended comments online and through focus groups, people indicated that their interest and overall comfort level depends on the company or organization with which they are bargaining and how trustworthy or safe they perceive the firm to be.

“It depends on what happens to their data after they are collected, especially if the data are made available to third parties. And it also depends on how long the data are retained.”

Here at digi.me, this completely chimes with both our business vision, whereby users are put back in control of their personal data to exchange or share for convenience, service or reward as they see fit, and our belief that the current system is broken beyond repair, with consumers and businesses at war, with neither getting what they want or need.

We are addressing this huge shift through our permissioned access model, releasing later this year, which will allow users to make the best use of their data, for their needs and wants, by adding health and financial data to their current social media life curation to provide a fuller version of their life.

Crucially, as users’ collect the data themselves with digi.me as the enabler, we never see any personal data, ever, and cannot access it under circumstances, so it will only be shared with the businesses they share with directly.

Additionally, new rules coming in across the EU in the next couple of years explicitly forbid details taken for one purpose to be sold on and used for another, so will effectively end third-party data selling.

All of which makes for very pleasing personal data developments, for all of us both personally and commercially.

Announcing the Internet of Me: an ideas forum for a technology revolution

digi.me, the personal data software company, has launched the Internet of Me forum , an initiative that aims to gather and publish information and opinion related to technologies, policies, industries and companies aiming to put people at the centre of their connected lives and back in control of their data.

With each of us creating ever-greater amounts of data about ourselves each and every day, what happens to that data and – crucially – who controls it has never been more important.

Wearable tech and connected devices will continue to grow and multiply, adding ease and convenience to our lives and combining to offer us tremendous benefit and insight, especially when brought together to form a complete picture of our lives.

This rich data store can – and should be – a catalyst for innovation and growth, but digi.me believes that the only way to realise the full potential of the personal data economy is for a fundamental shift in control over this information back to the individual.

This is where the Internet of Me comes in – the natural next step that puts individuals at the centre of their connected world, in control of their data, enabling them to see it, use it and share it on their terms for convenience, services and reward.

Digi.me’s social media app, which has already been used by over 300,000 people in 140 countries, lets users gather information from all their social media accounts and hold that data on their hard drive or in their personal cloud, ready to enjoy and explore as they choose. Digi.me is the enabler in this, and does not see or have access to any personal data at any stage of the process.

Next year, our app will offer users the chance to combine other personal information streams such as health and financial data. Users, if they choose, will then be able to give permission to companies to access it in exchange for personalised benefits. This unique approach that combines both privacy of information and exchange of personal data will enable a better and deeper relationship between users and companies for the benefit of both.

Apps and services such as digi.me will increase trust between those who create the data and those who wish to use it, as well as naturally resolving most of the current issues surrounding data privacy and security online.

But while we are excited to be a key component of this new technological advance, we know the Internet of Me is so much more than just us, which is why we are sponsoring a forum to explore and promote the different approaches and solutions surrounding personal data in the hopes of greater benefits and associated technological advances for all.

In doing so, we want to bring other voices into the conversation You can find our thoughts so far here – www.Internetofme.info – and we welcome all comments, suggestions and discussion.

As the Internet of Things looks to change how we interact with the world around us, the Internet of Me will put us at the very centre and in control of our connected life.

We look forward to exploring and developing its potential with you.

*digi.me is a sponsor of the Personal Information Economy 2015 event in London on December 8 and our founder Julian Ranger will be giving a keynote speech. Do come and see our stand if you’re there, or follow hot topics and subjects of interest on the event hashtag #pie2015.

4 reasons why SAAS is not right for digi.me – or your personal data

We’re often asked why digi.me is designed to store data locally, rather than on our own servers, and the answer is as simple as it is complex – you owning and controlling your own aggregated data is the only solution that makes sense.

Privacy is the critical reason behind this, control, security and cost are others – but our whole business rationale is that gathering all your personal data securely in one place is vastly more valuable to each and every one of us than having it scattered around.

But crucially, it’s a decision based firmly in the reality of what is best for our users – so here’s the background behind our key reasons in a little more detail:

1) The privacy reasoning is relatively obvious – if you’re pulling everything about you into one big online library, you don’t want to leave the door open. As digi.me grows to become a full inventory of your life, covering all your social media updates and pictures as well as data from every area of your life including financial, health, purchase, travel and positional and even from the Internet of Things – would you really trust all of that to be held externally by one company?

Studies show that most of us have – rightly, given the continuing major upturn in hacks and security breaches – trust issues when businesses have a large proportion of a single area of that data, let alone all of it – so the obvious person to trust with it all is you.

As the owner, you store this data where you choose – digi.me never sees it and never stores a copy – and it’s yours to do what you want with. Cloud-based syncing with future releases will allow you to access this secure library of you from multiple devices, but you choose the cloud and your data is still encrypted within it. Whether you go with this option or solely local storage, we can’t see it, nor can anyone else.

2) Control is also important – if you’re in charge of your own data, then accessing it and deciding what happens with it is naturally your decision. A SAAS service will usually have terms and conditions (T&Cs) nominally placing you in control – but what happens if the company could no longer provide the service or if you wanted to take it elsewhere- could you actually do that in reality?

Your data today is held by many companies under terms governed by their T&Cs. Most allow you to retrieve your data yourself- and upcoming Data Protection acts (DPA), such as the new EU DPA, are making this an absolute right.

But because data – your information, often provided by you, about you – is so valuable, many of these companies such as Facebook and Twitter do not allow 3rd party companies to access and keep that data, even with your permission –  they can access it but must then throw it away.

This is, of course, because your data is valuable to them, because they can sell it on and profit from it. They don’t want another company to hold that commodity as well – but digi.me overcomes that because you yourself gather the information after downloading our app, we do not do it for you. (Of course, this is another layer in how your data is kept private, as we have mentioned before, because we provide the means to get your data, not your personal information itself.)

3) Security is another major issue with SAAS companies – servers full of valuable data from millions of people that has a significant financial worth are a very attractive honeypot for hackers and criminals in general.

It takes time and money to bypass modern security protocols so it makes sense to target servers storing huge amounts of data rather than going after one person at a time. And, as recent breaches show, even huge multi-nationals have weaknesses that can be – and increasingly are – exposed.

4) And if a company does go above and beyond in their efforts to keep your data safe, such as by adding individual encryption, then you run into the final issue – cost.

If a 3rd party service is going to perform all the sync processing to retrieve your data, organise, store and manage it and then provide services on top then the cost associated with this as well as the relevant processing storage and bandwidth is substantial.

But each of these key issues is completely and emphatically overcome if you retrieve and process your own data locally or in a cloud of your choosing.

You get guaranteed privacy and control, because only you have your data. Because it’s yours, you can retrieve it from other companies and store it. Because it’s all in one place, it’s safer and by using resources you have already paid for you avoid extra cost.

Digi.me therefore, precisely because it is not SAAS, brings vast and ongoing benefits to the personal data economy and to each individual. Additionally, it puts you at the centre of your digital life and gives you the base layer of the Internet of Me, where the power of data becomes centered on the individual rather than being held elsewhere.

For trade not sale: digi.me and our role in the personal data economy

You may have seen digi.me quoted in a recent article in the FT about changes in the personal data economy which will lead people to only give information about themselves in return for something that benefits them.

This step change is certainly coming, and is arguably long overdue, but we have always believed it is about so much more than money, with a straight sale the least exciting thing we can do with our data.

Digi.me offers far greater benefits to both individuals and businesses than just the prospect of a sterile trade between data and cold, hard cash – it offers exchange of that information, with whom and when you choose, in return for any value which may be service, convenience or reward. Much more powerful and of ongoing benefit to your life.

Clearly, the data of each and every one of us has a monetary value to businesses. It tells businesses snippets of information about us, about what we are like and crucially what products or services we could be interested in or tempted by. But the key word there is snippets – this is snapshots of bits of personal information we have revealed about ourselves. Not whole, not wholly accurate, and therefore far from useful. But businesses use it because it’s still better than nothing.

How much better would accurate, rich data about each and every one of us be? Traded by the individual only with businesses they want to deal with, in exchange for service, convenience or reward.  That may be a health app to help you stay healthy or to allow you to share information with a doctor when you travel. It may be a new service to allow you to get more out of a product you use, it could be to tailor a service for you, it could be to allow you to directly engage with your bank on your credit history, and so on – innovation will flourish once you control your own data.  And that innovation will be much more than just selling your data to get tailored advertising!

Permissioned Access, coming to digi.me next year, does just this, turning this outdated and imperfect process on its head, with immediate and tangible benefits for both parties. Businesses can provide better services with more likelihood of deep consumer engagement if they know who they’re working with – and you can give them 100 per cent accurate and deep data going back months or years, with no errors thrown in.

If we’re getting personalised services based on actual data about ourselves, rather than some imagined self, we’re more likely to bite. There’s mutual trust, everyone’s happy, and the data for value exchange model becomes the new normal.

Here at digi.me we have always been crystal clear that the user regains control of their own data partly by having it under their control, which means stored in a local library on their computer or, with our coming release, encrypted in a cloud storage of their choice.

Crucially, we never see your data – you download our app and then populate it yourself, direct from your social networks, and then over the next year, your other data such as finance, health, from wearables and more. Under Permissioned Access, businesses will first have to demonstrate that they understand and will respect the importance and privacy of user data before they are certified and allowed to use our service. So we take your security and privacy, and that of your data, extremely seriously.

With the massive social media platforms of our age, the Facebooks, the Instagrams and the Twitters, has come the resigned understanding that, because we are allowed to use them for free, the inevitable trade is being tracked and our anonymised data sold on.

Companies like digi.me are working hard to show this does not have to be the model, that you can use us without us seeing or using your data, because we’re offering something new and different, which will change how you value your data forever.

Data exchange for value, whether service, convenience or reward, is where the personal data economy is undoubtedly heading – so remember you heard it here first.

*Want to also be the first to see new releases and get our new app when it is released? Download our desktop version for free.

ad-blockers, apple, ios9, data, advertising

Why ad-blockers really aren’t the data privacy win you might think

Ad-blockers shot straight to the top of the paid-for apps list in the App Store when Apple’s iOS9 update that allowed users to block mobile advertising was released.

So far, so not unusual – ads are pesky little things, right? Popping-up unexpectedly when you least expect them and generally bloating pages, crucifying page load times and eating up data allowances. Not to mention their tracking qualities as well as the past searches and purchases that stalk you round the web, site after site, day after day. Nope, no redeeming features at all – let’s block them all.

Then something unexpected happened – Marco Arment, creator of the no1 paid ad-blocker Peace, pulled it from the store after just two days, saying that “success didn’t feel good”.

What exactly the problem is remains unclear, altrhough comments on the Instapaper’s founder’s blog where he talked of needing to find a “more nuanced, complex approach” offer some clues.

He added: “Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”

What Arment seems to be alluding to is what Seth Godin termed the shared understanding that websites offer free content in return for attention. For most sites, advertising is what quite literally pays the content creation bills.

Of course, pages have become increasingly riddled with evermore intrusive ads over the past few years, and it’s hard not to see that the reader has been assailed from all sides. So the appearance of ad-blockers was only going to end one way. Or, as Godin put it: “In the face of a relentless race to the bottom, users are taking control, using a sledgehammer to block them all.”

But still the fact remains that readers and sites have been in a mutually-beneficial relationship where advertising has played a key role in funding content for which there is demand but no serious suggestion that users would pay the full creation cost. And that remains the case even as ad-blocking apps proliferate.

So if ad blocking is not the answer, what is? There is clearly change needed on both sides – advertisers needs to show self-restraint and not machine gun content over every page we open, while users need to understand that on the internet, as with so many things, we can’t simply have the good for free without giving something back.

But there also needs to be a fundamental shift in how we think about data. We don’t like these ads that follow us around, or trackers, because they feel like an assault on our privacy. Yet it is the information gained through this that allows businesses to begin to better target our wants and interests.

I say begin, as the data available to date is so thin and incomplete that it is estimated to be up to 30-50 per cent wrong, to the obvious detriment of both the business and user.

Imagine how much more beneficial for both sides a rich data set would be – useful data 100 per cent certified and licensed at source, used to target appealing ads back to that same user.

A vision for the future to be sure, but a vision that comes ever closer as the Internet of Me follows close on the heels of the Internet of Things, with companies like digi.me at the forefront of this digital revolution.

The Future of Personal Data

What is the future of personal data? How will it affect me personally and how will it affect my work and day to day life? These are all big questions when it comes to our personal data and these questions become even more prominent when we start to look at who currently has access to data about us.

Currently our banks, telecoms companies, social networks, fitness band companies, search engine providers and shopping sites all have information about us. Whilst this data is somewhat dispersed across the internet it is also duplicated. In some ways because it is not all in one place it seems safer.  However over time that data becomes out of date and unreliable.  We move house and have to inform everyone of our new address for example and it takes forever to get round to changing everything over.

These big companies aren’t allowed to share the core data about us between themselves without our permission but in some cases they have that permission without us even realizing it as we sign up to the small print or miss an opt out tick box.  Before we know it we have unrelated companies spamming us or cold calling.

Now imagine if we could easily revoke that permission to access the information about ourselves from those companies without having to write letters or chase, just at the click of a button.  Wouldn’t that be easier… and wouldn’t it be easier if we could give permission through simple but understandable terms and if we didn’t agree they couldn’t use our data.

Going one step further, if we owned our health data we could carry our health records ourselves when we travel and when we go to hospital with an illness or injury.  Lost medical records become a thing of the past. Clearly we would want to backup and securely store this information but once we can do that we can do so much more with it.

In order to make this sort of future a reality there are a few things that have to happen first. Companies need to understand better how data is owned and by whom, they also need to realize that it is no longer acceptable to lose data or sell it on without our knowledge.

Individuals need to realize that their data has a value, it belongs to them and is in fact part of their personal identity and not just something to be traded to the highest bidder for ad placements.  We need to stop giving away parts of ourselves without understanding how we can take control back of that data at any point in the future.

The “Internet of Things” is already a reality but the “Internet of Me” is just beginning. We all need to start taking a look at who we are, what data is of value to us and how that data could be used in ways that benefit us more as individuals.

Digi.me helps you to take that first step where you control of your personal web data.  We have started you off with putting you back in control of your social media updates and we look forward to bringing you even more control of your data.  Just remember we don’t see your data you do! It is yours and you own it all!

Sharing – change in control needed

Sharing today is generally seen as positive, but is also associated with negative aspects around privacy. If the negative aspects are not fixed sharing will slow and cease to the detriment to everyone, but there is a solution that will increase benefits to individuals, businesses and society as a whole IF there is a change in control – from business control to individual control.

Sharing is positive because it creates new services and functions that can help individuals, businesses and society as a whole. Sharing has grown through database marketing in 80s/90s; social media in the mid-00s; wider Software as a Service (SaaS) services since; and will grow exponentially more as individuals embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) – provided the “bad” can be controlled.

The negative is privacy; along with the increased sharing of information has always come concerns with regard to privacy. If we look back to the introduction of what might be termed database marketing in the 80s, increased privacy concerns led to the introduction of check boxes on forms stating whether businesses could use the information for other purposes. Today we have dramatically increased the personal data that is shared, both explicitly and hidden, whether that is social media, other web/SAAS services, monitoring of clicks and the like – and with that has come heightened privacy concerns.

The web related privacy concerns have grown ever more over the last 6 years, with greater numbers of people reducing/changing their social media use (or using more private channels), using Do Not Track, Ad blockers, ’going dark’ and other methods. The concept of the “creepy line” is well embedded now within society. Unconstrained and uncorrected, this will lead to a reduction in sharing, curtailing the positive benefits, and crippling new concepts such as IoT, which depends on greater levels of sharing.

This reduction in sharing leads to a discontinuity with dramatic effects. Not only will the Internet of Things be stillborn, but innovation in providing services based on personal data will stall across all domains (personal communications, commerce, health, etc). This will have a dramatically negative effect on businesses, but also individuals and society as a whole.

A BCG report “The value of our digital identity” states “The quantifiable benefit of personal data applications can reach €1 trillion annually to EU-27 by 2020  – with private and public organisations reaping about a third of the total, and consumers the rest” and then on goes on to say ““BUT much of this potential value will fail to materialise if consumers act to restrict the flow of personal data.”

How do we solve this problem and allow, even encourage, greater sharing? The current trajectory MUST be broken and restarted following a different approach in order for the full promise of personal data, inc. the IoT, to be realised

Change in control

There is a perception that there is so much data that it is currently infeasible for individuals to control it in a meaningful way with the information technologies available today, but our aim must be to provide that much needed control.

There are many suggestions for “personal data stores’ or “personal data lockers” and similar, hosted by third parties, to help individuals gain some control over their data. However, these all suffer from a number of issues: control is still via third party; the stores only hold a subset of data which means there is no overall control, no interoperability between different stores and no single point to access; holders of individual’s personal data (e.g. Facebook et al) often don’t allow access for retention by third parties. At best these systems are a band aid to the control issue and provide limited immediate benefits to individuals, severely limiting take up.

However, there is another approach – one in which the overall architecture is different, but at the same time familiar. By approaching the issue of privacy from an alternate architectural viewpoint, it is our contention that many of the problems are mitigated and contrary to there being an additional cost to privacy, there is in fact the reverse: an additional benefit to everyone involved with the new architecture, individuals, businesses and society alike – and at reduced cost.

The fundamental architectural difference is to return ownership and control of personal data to the individual, rather than the control being held exclusively by business

Personal control – the ultimate solution

Personal control is a simple change in perspective:

– Others don’t own your data – you do.

– Others shouldn’t hold your data – you should hold it yourself

By changing the view, this simple insight solves the privacy issue for individuals and the ability of businesses to access that data through user permissions.  This view, and the understanding that underpins it, has been developed by the company digi.me (formerly SocialSafe) in the UK, in a program of work that was initiated in 2009.

Having first downloaded the digi.me software to your device, the software works by retrieving your data directly to your digi.me library on your device – not touching anything else along the way, not the digi.me servers, not anything. A 100% private library of all your data, fused and normalised – social, financial, utilities, purchases, health, leisure and much more.

The digi.me user interface then allows the user to do more with their data, 100% privately, never losing it, and keeping access forever. It helps them be more engaged, have more fun, and to do more things, better – all locally and immediately, thereby giving that crucial incentive to start the process of regaining control of their data.

So digi.me is your librarian, but also extends to being your postman. The postal service is where digi.me controls a certificate system that allows other apps, web sites, etc. to ask the user for permission to see aspects of their data for a specific and permissioned purpose. If the permission is given by the user based on their perception of the offered value proposition, the digi.me app sends the permissioned portion of the ‘rich data’ to the requesting entity. This is summarised in the diagram below and in more detail in a video at http://digi.me/video

(Note: Whilst this architecture is different in that the individual owns and controls all their data, it was noted above that it was also familiar – that is because it is exactly what businesses do. Businesses hold all their own data – and then use local and remote apps to extract greater value. The individual is like a business with all the data available today – it should therefore not be a surprise that the solution is a familiar one!)

Conclusion

So by holding all their own data, individuals regain control and can do more with their data themselves and importantly can decide who they share that data with, what elements are shared, when, for what purpose – in this way the sharing economy can overcome the discontinuity posited above.

(Note: In my previous post I noted that we should define Privacy in the digital age as the “Ability to control your personal data, including who you share it with, when and for what purpose”. By owning your data you are then in control of your own privacy.)

Guest Post: Social Media Forever Changes The Way We Explore History

Social media forever changes how we explore history.  That statement, while innocent enough, has profound implications for future generations.

I grew up learning history from textbooks and memorizing the exploits of explorers like Christopher ColumbusVasco Nunez de Balboa and Amerigo Vespucci who I remember writing a paper on. I know that today history is taught with a lot more attention to the every day people who lived rather than the famous ones but we still have so little information on the lives of the masses.  The everyday lives of most people is lost to us.  We see often see their lives through the eyes of those who wrote about them, not in their own words. Social media has changed forever the way we will record and learn history.

With the ability to record, photograph and video our daily lives, social media has given future generations a window into the everyday lives, thoughts and feelings of those that will come before them, “us”. Think of the wealth of information on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others.  For many people these social media sites provide a platform from which to explore their feelings, relationships, beliefs, opinions and the simple nuances of their everyday lives. Future generations will know what we thought about everything simply by having access to social media platforms.

Think of the ability for a family to pass on this type of personal information to future generations.  It will seem as if you were actually listening to your great great grandmother when you didn’t have the opportunity to know her at all. To me this wealth of historical information is an invaluable role that social media will play over the coming decades.  Technology has made it possible to know the everyday lives of generations so that history does not depend on those in power to tell the story.  Nor will history books be able to gloss over events that are “unpopular” or show a negative slant on things.  With everyone a journalist, photographer and videographer, the voices and pictures of the past will speak for themselves.

I did an oral history project many years ago for college and I remember talking to a 90 year old woman about her life in Manchester, Connecticut.  I recorded our meetings and then compiled a paper which fascinated me because of its personal richness.  It was the ancient art of history through storytelling that could now be kept on tape.  How far we have come even in the last 20 years with technology and the emergence of social media.

A platform such as digi.me which allows us to save our social media content provides everyone with the opportunity to pass on a living diary of their life to their family members.  How incredibly powerful the access and control of this personal information will be not only to those using it in their time but to the vast accumulation of personal historical knowledge.

About the Author

PETS picture (3)Debbie Harris is the President of Performance Intermedia, LLC a social media consulting company.  Debbie works with businesses both for profit and not for profit to ensure they are getting the most out of social media and understand best practices.  She has a Master’s Degree in Social Media Compliance and the Law. Performance Intermedia, LLC provides social media strategy, graphic design, training, effective social advertising and posting for their clients. Debbie is a very active Rotarian both on the Club and District level. She sits on the Advisory Board for a local high school.  She has just completed an e-book on 7 Strategic Techniques for Gaining Clients from LinkedIn and writes for several publications.  Debbie does workshops and seminars related to social media and its effective use.  Debbie can be reached at Debbie@PImedia.me.