How Facebook plans to change the face of personal data

It’s an exciting time for personal data – and the time is now to innovate around the defining debate of our time.

That’s the view of Stephen Deadman, Facebook’s global deputy chief privacy officer, who has just launched an impassioned plea for a new debate and structures that will maximise the use of data for innovation while preserving individual freedoms such as the right to privacy.

In launching a consultation report aimed at creating a new coalition on personal data (in which digi.me participated), he pointed out that the current debate around who should share, use and be protected by data stemmed back to the dawn of computing, when no-one anticipated how important the person in personal data would become.

He said: “As a result, many now think there is an unavoidable trade-off between two apparently opposing forces – the desire for innovation and growth, and the right to privacy and security. That if you want innovation and growth you must be prepared to sacrifice privacy, and that if you want data protection and privacy it will have to come at the expense of innovation and growth. Neither is true.”

In fact, he says, what we have is the worst of both worlds – traditional industries being overtaken by more innovative technologies, and plummeting consumer confidence and trust despite decades of regulation designed to create the opposite. And the debate between the two sides is becoming increasingly adversarial – a war on data, as we have called it.

But yet, as he also pointed out: “No one wants a trade-off between privacy and innovation. I can’t remember the last time I met a business leader who thinks riding roughshod over people’s fundamental rights is a good idea. Likewise, none of the many policy makers and regulators I’ve met over the years actually wants to stifle growth and innovation. We all want both.”

And this is so true, but rarely understood or acted on – which needs to change, and fast.

At the launch, he quoted digi.me as one of three business from the 175 who took part who exemplified everything he wanted the new data economy to be: “Consumers want more control over their data. They want to get more value from their data and entrepreneurs are now rushing to give them both. Just look at digi.me, which is creating a user-controlled marketplace around personal data.”

And we’re proud to be at the forefront of innovation in a vastly important area that affects each of us.

But we all need to be moving and pulling in the same direction if this new movement around personal data is to achieve its full potential.

It’s great news that Facebook is launching a new collaboration over personal data, based on its work over the past 12 months – big names getting on board is always important to any new set of structures and thinking being adopted.

But, as Stephen says, we all have our part to play: “Europe has just adopted a new framework for data protection. But this is just the start – the success or failure of the GDPR is ultimately in the hands of regulators and industry. If the intention is to enable Europe to capitalise on its enormous creative talents, we need to find ways to harness that creativity to deliver the things and experiences that people want – including the way people’s data is controlled or protected.

“That creativity will largely need to come from industry – and our plea to policy makers and regulators is to give industry the space to act and innovate in this direction. We will need to adopt a new collaborative approach: If we’re going to build people’s trust in European industry and regulation, we need to start by building trust between industry and regulators.”


Facebook Moments picture delete: back-up with digi.me instead

Facebook has announced it is deleting photos “privately synced from your phone” to the website unless you use its new app – but what does this mean?

Well, in line with Facebook’s previous aggressive pushes to get users to download its stand-alone apps (see also Messenger), it’s trying to get people to use its new Moments photo-sharing app.

Photos previously synced to Facebook (but not shared on profiles) were moved across to Moments earlier this year, and now users are being warned that they will be deleted unless they download and login to the Moments app by July 7.

And it seems to have worked – according to reports Moments soared to the top of the free iPhone download charts as this became public, from a position of around 90-100.

Of these, many are likely users who panicked and didn’t know what this meant for them or their personal photos – so what lessons can we take from this?

One, really – always back up your content. Always have it in at least two places so no-one else can delete it or take it away from you.

While we couldn’t have helped in this specific instance as the pictures weren’t posted to profiles, they were effectively just synced with your account, it is a good idea to back up your social media content generally.

And as we offer so much more, including universal search, insights and our new mobile apps, it makes sense to do it with us!

But whatever you choose – stay in control and don’t your data be held hostage. It’s too important for that.

digi.me now available for free on iOS and Android

mobile digi.me

We are delighted to announce that a digi.me app is now available on the Apple App Store so everyone can see, search, save and share all their social media pictures and pins on the move.

digi.me has brought the best of its desktop application available on PC and Mac to mobile, so you can see all your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and Pinterest pictures and pins you’ve posted and liked in one place.

The digi.me app automatically shows you all your content, which you can browse through at leisure. It also features improved search as well as filtering functions so you can narrow down what you look for by keyword, platform post and type, person, time period, album, board or a combination of these.

When you have found what you are looking for or you have re-discovered a forgotten gem, one Swipe helps you save it to your device, send it in a message or email, see it in its original location, complete with likes and comments.  You can also save your favourite searches to come back to quickly and easily to the content or topics you are regularly looking for.

“The team have worked hard to make sure you get to the photo you’re looking for as quickly as you can think of it. We’ve had a lot of fun building, optimising and using the app and hope that is reflected in your day to day use”, said Pascal Wheeler, digi.me Chief Creative Officer.

“We’ve created widgets for Flashback, your posts, your likes, and photos you’re tagged in – and more are in development, so stay tuned!”

As with the digi.me desktop version, all user data remains wholly private as digi.me doesn’t see, touch or hold any of your information, which you download directly to your device or your personal cloud that only you have access to.

An Android version of the App has also been launched and can be downloaded here.


In pictures: a month in the life of digi.me

We always working hard to improve both our apps and personal data privacy in general – but we get around the world a bit as well!


Our founder and chairman Julian Ranger is in demand as a privacy expert and speaker worldwide, and here he is speaking at a conference on the future of data in banking in Iceland…


…and making the Icelandic press with our defining vision of the Internet of Me, where the individual is at the centre of their connected life.


The digi.me team are based all over the world – but a meet-up near our Farnham HQ was a welcome chance to catch up as well as discuss strategy for the (exciting) year ahead. Our EVP North America Jim Pasquale here with Julian…


…and our CEO Rory Donnelly…


…and meeting some of our developers (and making them laugh, he’s a funny guy!)


There was time for a few photos (here with Chief Creative Officer Pascal Wheeler)…


…before he and Julian headed back to New York for the UN ID2020 event…


… a global initiative looking at how to provide legal identity and inclusion for trafficked people, refugees, children and disaster relief victims


Rory presenting digi.me at The Next Web’s Super Launchpad in Amsterdam…


…before taking charge of the stand in the Microsoft booth demonstrating our app to eager attendees


You, yes YOU, should be the most important thing in the Internet of Things

The second part of the extensive interview with our founder and chairman Julian Ranger has been published, focusing on why the IoT needs an Internet of Me to make it real and fix obvious and glaring privacy and security issues.

It’s a cracking read, and covers a lot of ground including the war on privacy, why data collection needs to move from behind us to in front of us, and why the way apps and devices handle data needs to undergo a fundmental shift.

I can’t recommend it highly enough if you have any interest at all in the field of personal data privacy and the personal data economy (which we all, of course, should have) – so here are a couple of choice quotes to whet your appetite:

“The Internet of Things at the moment is being built on data that is collected behind us. It needs to move in front of us. We need a path towards that, from the dark side to the light side. The IoT can’t work behind us, which is the way it’s been built today. That’s just loading more rubbish on a rubbish framework. There needs to be a new framework.”

“A large part of the cost of IoT is that all this data is being racked up into offline storage that companies are having to do. It is uneconomic to keep supporting old stuff. But what would happen if the data came to me first — not necessarily just into digi.me but wherever I choose to keep it — and I then decided where it went? If a business no longer wants to support it I can still keep this piece of kit and it keeps talking to my system for ever if I want, but more importantly I get to control where the data goes.”

Tempted? Excellent – it’s well worth your time.

And if you missed the first interview, which took place over on the Internet of Me forum which we sponsor and support, you can find that here.


The whys and why-nots of using wearables at work

Wearables have been in the news a lot lately – notably where the line should be drawn between employers keeping an eye on the health and wellbeing of those they employ, and where that crosses into breach of privacy.

Company fitness trackers, incentives and even competitions are all in common use to promote a leaner, stronger workforce – and inevitably this produces data about our habits outside, as well as inside, work.

As this article points out, its is in no-one’s interests to have overworked, stressed and anxious employees – particularly if they don’t spot this in themselves. So, carried out in a climate of trust and accountability, tracking health, for example, can be helpful for both parties.

But however well-intentioned, does that give companies the right to track health data generally in a bid to optimise performance, to see how employees react to stressful situations before choosing who makes important presentations, for example, or to detect some health conditions before they become serious?

The advent of the web and messaging platforms has already led to an ‘always on’ culture where many find it trickier to maintain a good work/life balance. In the same vein, should employers really be able to track their employees 24/7, including out of office hours, even if it’s supposedly for their own good? Most would stay not.

Not only are there concerns over privacy – employees who are pregnant, for example, may not want to share this before the traditional 12-week scan that confirms all is well – but wearables may pick up on changes well before this. And of course there are concerns over data accuracy – nobody wants to be judged on something that is ultimately wrong, but this could be hard to prove or overturn.

AS the WSJ article points out: “There are serious questions about the accuracy of many of the apps that power these devices. Making decisions about people based on their private information is bad enough. Worse would be making decisions based on private health data that was wrong.”

Dr Deborah Peel, of Patient Privacy Rights, writing ahead of their annual summit on June 7th which digi.me is sponsoring, is clear that consent is crucial.

She said: “As technology moves faster and faster, we need to stop and ask questions.

“Before you give your data away, take a look at the device or app’s privacy policy. Do you understand how information you volunteer will be used? Is it clear? Most importantly, how can we minimize the potential misuse of our data, and maximize the benefits of wearable technology so that they serve the individual before they serve your employer’s bottom line?”

A requirement to use, and share information from, data trackers is also likely to undermind employee morale, if they feel they are not trusted to be truthful about their fitness for work.

Data-sharing agreements can be put in place, but the employee may still feel under pressure to reveal more than they are confortable with to justify their continued employment, so there would likely be a need for even more policies around coercion.

All in all, while they can clearly have benefits for both parties, employers need to tread carefully when considering a wearables policy – and get consent at every step of the way.


Digi.me is pleased to announce that we continue to have Instagram’s support 🎉

On June 1st Instagram will cut off access to its feed API. This is how apps help you access your content outside of Instagram. We are pleased that Instagram understands the importance of its users having ongoing access to their photos and are very pleased to be among a select group of developers granted access to its new API.

This means you’ll continue to be able to search, view, download and share photos you’ve posted to Instagram ⛰🎆👍.

If you’re using digi.me on Windows or Mac make sure you update to 7.1.5 before June 1st. If you don’t see an update prompt, download it directly from here.

iOS and Android apps should update themselves but again you can reinstall directly.

If you follow anyone with a private account you will notice that photos you’ve liked of theirs no longer show up in digi.me. This is a known issue with the new API and we’re hopeful it will be fixed real soon.

Desktop users also used to be able to see who followed or stopped following them. Unfortunately this function is no longer available.

Digi.me 7.1.5 for Windows and Mac

Digi.me for iOS

Digi.me for Android


A plan for peace in the personal data war

Our founder and chairman Julian Ranger is the subject of an excellent new interview.

Taking a look at the war between those who want to take our personal data and those who want to use it to track and target us with ads, the first paragraph eloquently sums up the situation: “Starting wars is easy. It’s finishing them that’s difficult. What exactly is peace going to look like? How do you repair the damage? Can life really be the same again?”

It’s a fascinating look at a difficult and tricky situation – and Julian explains why some vaunted ‘solutions’ just won’t work and why the digi.me-supported Internet of Me vision and forum based around the same ideas, where the interview appears and which we started and support, is the only way forwards.

Some choice quotes to whet your appetite:

“There’s this strange paradox where people seem to care about privacy but carry on doing things that compromise it,” says Julian. “I think that’s because it’s all too difficult. People turn away and pretend to ignore it ­­– we all do it.”

“At digi.me, when we talk about what the Internet of Me means to us we talk about utility — utility to you the individual getting your data back and then utility to businesses, government and society as a whole when we share it.

“We say that by doing it the way we at digi.me propose it is 100% private and it will enable a more private world. But there is this huge body of people who are not going to come to that way of thinking because they want to fix today’s privacy problems. I want to tell them this: we can’t. We can’t fix all those problems with a load of different point solutions. The model is so broken and busted that you can’t do it.”

I see a true Internet of Me as being where I own and control my data and companies knock on the door to ask for it and I get to control who gets it — that’s all open and transparent. It’s the light side.

Click here to read the interview in full



digi.me and digital memory on the BBC

digi.me and our app has just been featured on the Memory episode of BBC Radio 4’s FutureProofing (if you missed it you can listen again here, Julian is on from 23.46)

The programme started by musing on the question of memories being lost as the keepers of them, and those who shared them, died off, with presenter Timandra Harkness likening memory to a “Bladerunner moment – all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain – it  will be lost in time – inevitable but it still seems kind of sad”

The programme then posited the question: Will memory get washed away in the digital deluge, or will we find some mechanisms that stop us forgetting?

In our segment, Julian explained digi.me’s role in gathering memories and data about significant events from our lives, with the purpose of creating greater insight and control as well as the opportunity for each of us to share that on our terms.

And also that the sharing is nuanced – because the data is ours, in our own library, we and we alone can decide what broadly we’re going to share, and then how much and who with.

The benefit to businesses, and more widely innovation? Rich data that is wider in scope, deeper in time and 100 per cent accurate, all fully permissioned.

Leo Johnson, the other presenters, called digi.me ‘seductive’ because of the permissioned access value exchange aspect, although Timandra was more skeptical about a world where everything was potentially shareable.

The whole programme, which covers a raft of distinct but interlocking stories on subjects including neuro-science, what the future holds for memories, and how Holocaust memories are both created and preserved not only to learn the lessons of the past but guide the future, is excellent and well worth a listen.


EU GDPR: full details of what it means for personal data and your business

Data is the currency of today’s digital economy – and the new GDPR will not only protect this valuable resource for both individuals and companies when it becomes law in 2018 but increase innovation and cut costs as well.

According to estimates, the value of European citizens’ personal data has the potential to grow to nearly €1 trillion annually by 2020 – and business opportunities will only be increased by strengthening and unifying Europe’s already high standard of data protection.

Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens, DE), who steered the GDPR legislation through Parliament, said: “The regulation will also create clarity for businesses by establishing a single law across the EU. The new law creates confidence, legal certainty and fairer competition.” But what are the key things businesses need to know?

  • One law for the whole continent – one of the biggest attractions is that Europe will now be covered by one law, applied in the same way everywhere, instead of a patchwork of national ones. Eliminating the need to consult local lawyers in each country a business has dealings or premises will see direct cost savings as well as legal certainty. Savings from dealing with one pan-European law rather than 28 are estimated at €2.3bn per year.
  • Regulatory one-stop shop – businesses will only have to deal with one regulatory body rather than 28, making it simpler and cheaper for companies to do business in the EU. They will also profit from faster decisions, one single contact point and less red tape as well as consistency of decisions where the same processing activity takes place in several member states.
  • The same rules for all companies – all companies, whether or not they are based in the EU, will have to adher to the same rules when doing business with its citizens, creating a level playing field that does not exist at the moment where European companies are governed by stricter standards.
  • Technological neutrality – innovation will continue to thrive under the new rules.

There are also new rights aimed primarily at giving individuals more control over their personal data that will additionally benefit business. For example, the new right to data portability, which allows individuals to move their personal data between service providers without losing, for eg contacts and emails, will take away disincentives to switch which often mean building up again from scratch, meaning start-ups and small companies can compete on equal terms in markets previously dominated by industry giants. This will make the European economy more competitive. New privacy-friendly solutions are also likely to fare well in this climate.

SMEs will also benefit from a data protection reform aimed at stimulating economic growth and allowing them to access new markets by cutting costs and red tape for European business. As well as the measures outlined above, such as one law instead of 28, the obligations on data controllers and processors are adjusted based on the size of the business and/or the the nature of the data being processed, so as to avoid creating unnecessary red tape and a disproportionate regulatory burden for smaller firms. So, for example:

  • SMEs need not appoint a data protection officer, unlike larger companies, unless their core activities require regular, systematic and large scale monitoring of data subjects. or they process sensitive areas of personal data such as that revealing racial or ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
  • They also do not need to keep records of any processing activities that are occasional or are unlikely to result in a risk to the rights of the data subject
  • They will also not be obliged to report all data breaches to individuals, unless these represent a “high risk for their rights and freedoms.”

An essential principle of the new system will be that data protection is private both by design and by default, which will incentivise businesses to innovate and “develop new ideas, methods, and technologies for security and protection of personal data.”

The new rules promote techniques such as anonymisation (removing personally identifiable information where it is not needed), pseudonymisation (replacing personally identifiable material with artificial identifiers), and encryption (encoding messages so only those authorised can read it) to protect personal data.

The use of “big data” analytics, such as driverless cars, which can done using anonymised or pseudonymised data, will be actively encouraged under the new regulation, showing it goes hand in hand with innovative and progressive solutions.

Overall, the new data protection rules give businesses opportunities to remove the lack of trust that can affect people’s engagement through innovative uses of personal data.

Giving individuals clear, effective information about what their data is being used for will help build trust in analytics and innovation for the benefit of all.