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digi.me featured in Der Spiegel and Icelandic press!

Here at digi.me we’re active around the world and at the forefront of innovation in the burgeoning personal data economy, so we’re not unused to press attention.

But we’re delighted to have been featured in an article in Der Spiegel, one of Europe’s biggest and most prestigious weekly news magazines, looking at how data start-ups such as digi.me are changing the value perception of personal data for the benefit of both users and businesses.der-spiegel

Journalist Marcel Rosenbach interviewed our founder and chairman, Julian Ranger, about our company vision of returning the power of data back to the individual for them to exchange with companies as they wish, on their terms.

We’re not alone in reimagining how the internet, and particularly the use of personal data, should look, but we are doing exciting and pioneering work and it’s always good to see that recognised.

We also hit the press in Iceland after Julian (he’s very busy and very much in demand!) spoke at a conference on the future of financial technology there.

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The ability to add full health and financial data to your digi.me library is on track to be added later this year.

We also have a host of very excitings lined up for this year that we can’t quite reveal yet – but you’ll be the first to know when that changes!

Stay tuned!

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Digital legacy: leaving memories of a life lived and loved behind

Death has been on my mind a lot recently – and not always in a bad way.

My husband’s much-loved grandmother (above, meeting our first son, her great-grandson, in 2011) would have been 100 last week, but sadly died eight weeks short of her century after old age finally caught up with the strongest of hearts.

An amazing woman, she was born weighing just 1lb and her own mother died in childbirth. Raised by her father, she went into service in her late teens and raised her own children in the stresses and horrors of World War 2.

Fragile and gradually failing healthwise for the 11 years that I had known her, she was nonetheless the beating heart of her immediate family, drawing everyone around her and always up to date on local comings and goings despite rarely leaving the house.

Her two sons and grandchildren have spent much of the time since her death clearing out her house – and unearthing long forgotten photos and their associated memories as they do so, of events long forgotten and sometimes not even known.

One thing that struck me was that Olive’s way of securing memories -albums of photos, clippings from the local newspaper – is very much coming to an end.

Now, memories are stored digitally – pictures on our phones, whole lives on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Our collective digital memories remember so much more – too much, maybe, minutiae mixed up with life-defining events – and yet there can be comfort in the unravelling of that life, which this piece on a ‘secret life’ discovered on a laptop belonging to the writer’s recently-deceased mother explains beautifully:

“But walking in mom’s online footsteps was also like crossing a field riddled with land mines. Without warning, something would trigger my grief and my heart was ripped open again. The most painful were those that came just before the cancer battle speeches, before she knew she was sick. There, plain as day, were her plans and hopes for a future she thought stretched out before her.”

Of the major social networks, only Facebook allows the ability to ‘memorisalise’ a dead person’s profile, preserving what is there and allowing existing friends and family contacts to post to the page.

A friend of a friend, who I knew slightly but not well, died reasonably unexpectedly two years ago. Friends often post to her page when they think of her, or do something she would have enjoyed – and her family often comment how much it means to them that she lives on in the memories of others and has not been forgotten.

So creating digital memories is not just something we do to share our highs and lows with those around us in the here and now, it’s increasingly our legacy too, for those who will one day rely on this instead of our physical presence.

Truly, storing these memories can also have a benefit in the present too – our brains are so over stimulated that we forget most of the things that happen to us immediately, so saving important memories somewhere allows us to return and relive the ones that stand out and matter most.

But our digital legacy, ultimately, is what we leave to pass on to those we spent our happiest times with – and digital apps such as digi.me offer an easier and more obvious way to do that.

While it is often argued, with a great deal of truth, that social media is very much a constructed self, the side we want to show the world, a private journal, again like digi.me, where you can add your own, non-shared entries and pictures, stands as a true reflection of the person you are and the times you lived in.

Your digital legacy is not replacing memories of the here and now, but one day it will replace the physical you – and in all likelihood offer comfort to those you leave behind.

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What does a Trump vs Clinton fight for the US presidency mean for privacy?

The next US president looks set to be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton – so what will be the implications for personal data privacy and surveillance whoever wins? Let’s have a look at their track records…

Donald Trump has strong and (from a UK viewpoint) often bizarre viewpoints on many things. There’s not much The Donald hasn’t opined on, and privacy and security are no different. And, as ever, he’s got an unusual take on things.

Back in September, for example, he said he was open to ‘closing parts of the internet down‘ to win the fight again Isis, which shows broad ambition and lateral thinking skills if not a huge amount of technical nous. The whole quote in full: “I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody. I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our internet.”

Following the attacks in Paris, he said that privacy rights in America were a lot stronger before: “Those privacy rights were a lot stronger three days ago than they are now,” he said. “I think a lot of people would be willing to give up some privacy in order to have more safety.”, while also alluding to his belief that surveillance had not stopped the attacks.

He also strongly criticised Apple for opposing the FBI’s ‘backdoor’ order, asking: “Who do they think they are? They have to open it up.

He added: “I agree 100 percent with the courts. In that case, we should open it up.” […] “I think security, overall, we have to open it up and we have to use our heads. We have to use common sense. Somebody the other day called me a common-sense conservative. We have to use common sense.”

He then – such a surprise! – went further, urging a boycott of Apple if they didn’t help the FBI. As Trump is apparently an iPhone user, it was unclear whether he planned to boycott himself – but thankfully (or not, depending on how you look at it), the FBI found another way in without the whole court battle/boycott having to play out.

But, we should also note at this point, he did say if elected he would close loopholes in federal law that allow student data mining.

Moving on to surveillance, Trump has declared himself “fine” with re-authorising the Patriot Act, coming out in favour of security over privacy and further admitting:”I assume when I pick up my telephone people are listening to my conversations anyway, if you want to know the truth.”

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is what we might term a more seasoned political operator, and for that reason her stances have been a little more, erm, cautious.

But she has strong opinions on Edward Snowden, stating during a democratic debate: “He broke the laws of the United States.

“He stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.”

Staying with Snowden, she has also said: “He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.” (athough subsequent press reports suggested he may not have been eligible for whistleblower protection)

On the NSA, which is synomymous with the Snowden revelations, particularly over the mass surveillance of civilians, she has been vaguer on her pronouncements, leading to the Atlantic to call her evasive, in an article in which they quoted her as saying: “Well, I think the NSA needs to be more transparent about what it is doing, sharing with the American people, which it wasn’t. And I think a lot of the reaction about the NSA, people felt betrayed. They felt, wait, you didn’t tell us you were doing this. And all of a sudden now, we’re reading about it on the front page…”

She was clear they had to act “lawfully”, but equally a lot of wiggle room was left there for her eventual position if she becomes the first US female president.

Speaking specifically about balancing the rights of privacy in reference to powers given to government agencies post 9/11, she said: “There’s no doubt we may have gone too far in a number of areas, and those [practices] have to be rethought and rebalanced”….adding:”I think it’s fair to say the Government, the NSA, didn’t so far as we know cross legal lines, but they came right up and sat on them.

“It could perhaps mean their data was being collected in metadata configurations, and that was somehow threatening. We have to be constantly asking ourselves what legal authorities we gave to the NSA and others and make sure people know what the tradeoffs are.”

On the FBI/Apple battle, for the record, she trod a careful middle line, saying: “I see both sides, and I think most citizens see both sides…We don’t want privacy and encryption destroyed, and we want to catch and make sure there’s nobody else out there whose information is on the cell phone of that killer.”

Of course, no look at Clinton and privacy is complete without a look at the curious affair of her use of her own private email server, which was used during her time as Secretary of State, in breach of normal protocol. Both she and the State Department have now released thousands of these emails in an effort to show (ironically) no breaches of security were made. A good look at the whole affair here.

So, essentially,  the ultimate future impact on privacy and surveillance is a difficult one to call at this stage, not least because we’re a long way off from the November contest and uber serious polling has yet to commence.

But we’re certainly in for interesting times, whoever wins. God Bless America!

 

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Why privacy is a right… not a luxury

Privacy should be a right we can all take for granted – but the problem is it is being taken away from us without our consent.

Will new trading models that put data back in the hands of the individual, who can then share or exchange it at will, make privacy the preserve of only those who have sufficient income to make a choice over this, rather than those whose circumstances compel them to to take advantage of what’s on offer, whether or not that’s what they would choose?

That’s the premise in this otherwise sensible article on the growth of the sharing economy, which ponders:  “But paying consumers to give up their privacy may not be particularly freeing for lower-income tech users. The practice essentially puts a premium on privacy: If you want to keep your data, and stay anonymous, you have to give up cash and deals. If this model plays out, a private smart home will be more expensive than one that reports back on its users.”

The article, which also mentions an AT&T deal in the US, where not having your search and browsing history recorded costs more each month, makes some good points, and that is one interpretation of the facts.

But the bald and biggest fact being overlooked here is that nothing is free in this world – users of so-called ‘free’ newspaper or gaming sites just don’t realise they are paying for them with their data!

Ultimately, privacy is a right that we should all automatically have and which nobody should have to pay for.

But yet while we make choices all the time in every area of our lives, at the moment we don’t have a choice about what happens to our data – information about us – that is taken from us multiple times a day without permission and then used as a crude (and often irritating) targeting tool.

Sometimes we do actively sign this right of ours away, but through ‘I agree’ buttons and long-winded privacy policies designed to confuse and bore us and which companies know the vast majority of us will just quickly scan, at most, to get to the service they offer.

Putting the individual back in control, at their centre of their connected world in what we are calling the Internet of Me, will automatically enable a more private world.

Getting a discount or deal simply for sharing that data, on your terms, with who you choose, will be a benefit that will appeal to all, and simply another life choice to make.

So, actually, if privacy could be seen as a luxury, it’s a luxury around actually having a choice, as opposed to being forced to give up data as we all are at the moment, whether we know it or not. Or even like it or not.

But the bottom line is that privacy is a right for all – and here at digi.me we’re doing everything we can to enable a world in which that’s known and accepted universally.

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Why the Daily Mail is completely wrong on personalised data

The tone of the headline sets the scene for the rest of the determinedly single focus article – evil holiday firms are “tracking your computer, scouring your old bookings..and even checking the births marriages and deaths!”

And for what purpose is this “spying” being done? So they can hike the price of your holiday, apparently, through personalised pricing based on knowing when, where and how you like to travel.

Now, businesses exist to make money, and will leverage opportunities they see – it’s naive to think otherwise. But holiday prices in this country are already hiked hugely during school and public holidays, for example, because data shows that more people travel then and supply and demands means they are forced to accept higher prices. So for the Mail to froth at the mouth about this seems a little horse and stable door.

In fact what the story is actually about is travel firms attempting to find out more about travellers through existing data to build a picture of what they might do in the future. So identifying who’s a last-minute panic holiday shopper, for eg, or who frequently books flights at rush hour times between major cities.

And, yes, the ultimate purpose behind these is likely to be personalised offers and advertising – not necessarily based on pricing. In fact, many of the firms in the article say that’s not the case (although they would, wouldn’t they?) – but it is certainly the reality that with multiple airlines or holiday companies offering similar products, over-priced holidays or flights are likely to be turned down, and potential customers lost.

The Mail, though, sees this as another example of Big Brother in our lives, and it comes hot on the heels of an article a few weeks ago that was similarly dismissive and scare-mongering about banks building up pyschological profiles of customers to offer targeted services.

But is it really so bad? I would argue not. The problem is less with the gathering of the data – personalised service, after all, is the Holy Grail of most businesses across all industries, because the more they know about us the more likely we are to buy.

No, personalisation can be good – when done well, when done with consent.

And this is the real problem, the one that the Mail doesn’t touch on at all because it’s too busy being outraged by the end product and not the process.

As Ctrl-Shift summarised in an excellent blog about the banking article: “The sad fact is that today’s standard model of customer data collection and use is almost perfectly designed to trigger these creepy feelings.

“This model is based on organisations collecting data about you, going through some process which you don’t understand behind your back, to do things to you. It can’t help but create a sense among customers that they are being watched and intruded upon, where they can’t trust the other party’s motives.”

As well as the underhand and non-permissioned way of collecting data like this, the end product is far from satisfactory – thin, not detailed and often 30-50 per cent incorrect.

So, really, it’s not working at all for users – who dislike the creepy, sneaky nature of web tracking, so are using ad blocking technology in their hundreds of millions – nor businesses, which need accurate data to fully understand and thus serve their customers.

The current data exchange model is broken, but a new one is emerging – a trust-based sharing economy with users in control of their own personal data and able to share it on their terms, for their benefit, only with those companies they want to deal with.

A tipping point will come, and soon, where this is the only future for personal data. And digi.me will be at the forefront with our Permissioned Access model, which will let users do just that, initially with their health and financial information.

But until then, the Mail is wrong. Personalised data is not the problem – it has the ability to enrich, deepen  and simplify each of our lives and experiences. The problem is how that data is acquired – but the storms of change are brewing, and we should all be ready to embrace them when they come.

 

 

 

 

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Ad-blocking hits the mainstream in the UK

Nearly 15 million people in the UK will be using ad-blocking technology by 2017 according to the first ever estimate from eMarketer.

By the end of next year, it expects 27% of internet users, or 14.7 million people, will be choosing to stop digital ads on at least one of their devices, largely in response to evermore intrusive tracking ads that take personal data without permission and also create slow, heavy pages that cannibalise bandwidth and add to page load times.

The report estimates that of the 10.9 million people who currently block ads, the vast majority (90.2%) do so on a desktop or laptop PC, with about 28% blocking ads on smartphones, although there is overlap as some block on multiple devices. Mobile ad blocking is still lagging behind, as the tech is still catching up and ad blocking doesn’t fully work within apps, where most mobile users spend their time.

eMarketer senior analyst Bill Fisher said: “There’s no doubting that ad blocking is now a very real issue for advertisers. Next year, over a quarter of the people they’re trying to reach will be wilfully making themselves unreachable.

“The good news is that numbers like this have forced those within the industry to think long and hard about what it is that they need to do better in order that this practice doesn’t become an epidemic.”

The “greatest consumer boycott in history”, as it has been dubbed, already sees more than 250,000 million users of ad-blocking tech worldwide, with numbers increasing fast.

And while a failure of advertising to understand what their readers do – or don’t – want has contributed heavily, the effects are far-reaching.

Industries and models that rely on advertising to fund their content and make it available for free – including video games and newspapers – find their very funding model under threat as part of this anger aimed at advertising that tracks us and sells on our data.

So what’s the way forward? Ad blocking has always been with us, in the sense that if we didn’t want to read an ad in a paper we simply skipped over it and on to the next news item we were interested in. Ad-blocking isn’t designed to punish the publishers, but the ads that don’t respect our privacy – so how can we apply this analogue blocking to the digital age, and pack a punch where it needs to go without hurting those who are largely innocent parties?

Handily, work is underway at the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View on just that, at sessions run by internet legend and our advisor, Doc Searls, and attended by our founder and chairman Julian Ranger and our EVP North America Jim Pasquale.

As Doc said ahead of the session: “What we need is a solution that scales for readers and is friendly to publishers and the kind of advertising readers can welcome—or at least tolerate, in appreciation of how ads sponsor the content they want. This is what we have always had with newspapers, magazines, radio and TV in the offline world, none of which ever tracked anybody anywhere.

“So now we offer a solution. It’s a simple preference, which readers can express in code, that says this: Just show me ads that aren’t based on tracking me. Equally simple code can sit on the publishers’ side. Digital handshakes can also happen between the two…”

The work at IIW will be to reach agreement on that term, its wording , and the code that expresses and agrees to it.

As Doc said: “…this one term is a first step. There will be many more before we customers get the full respect we deserve from ad-funded businesses online. Each step needs to prove to one business category or another that customers aren’t just followers. Sometimes they need to take the lead.

“This is one of those times.  So let’s make it happen.”

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digi.me founder Julian Ranger urges voters to stay in the EU

As the UK gears up for a referendum on whether to stay in the EU or leave, digi me’s founder and chairman has joined over 200 leading entrepreneurs who believe we are stronger in because of the benefits of free trade to businesses of all sizes.

The newly-formed Entrepreneurs In, made up of successful start-ups from all sectors across the UK, believe that leaving would be catastrophic for business and stamp out innovation.

Published in the FT, the letter’s signatories include Martha Lane Fox CBE, Founder of Doteveryone and Co-Founder of Lucky Voice and lastminute.com, Alex Chesterman, Founder and CEO of Zoopla, James Daunt, Founder of Daunt Book, Alex Asseily, Founder of Jawbone, State and Chiaro, Lloyd Dorfman CBE, Founder of Travelex and Chairman of The Office Group and Doddle and Mattias Ljungman, Partner, Atomico and Founder of Skype.

The full letter reads: “We are the founders and CEOs of some of the UK’s most entrepreneurial businesses – from early stage start-ups to household names.

 “Every day, as we build our companies, we see the benefits of being able to do business within Europe’s single market of 500 million consumers, with one set of regulations across 28 countries, and the ability to recruit the brightest people here and across Europe.

 “Once the latest round of British-backed EU reforms have been completed, the European market for services, as well as digital products, will create even greater business opportunities for our firms.

“Of course the EU isn’t perfect; but rather than cutting ourselves off from the opportunities it offers, it is better to be on the inside helping shape the rules of this market, instead of just being subject to them.

 “The economic shock of a vote to leave the EU would also be hugely damaging to our businesses. Leaving could lead to lost investment, missed opportunities and lost jobs. 

“The UK is currently the best place in Europe to launch and grow a business; leaving the European Union will undoubtedly undermine the ability of Britain’s entrepreneurs to start-up, innovate, and grow.

 “It is simply not worth the risk.”

The EU referendum takes place on June 23.

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EU GDPR – full details of what it means for you and your personal data

Stricter data privacy rules will come in across the EU in 2018 after MEPs finally agreed them – but what does that mean exactly for you and your private information?

The GDPR, which will apply across the EU and is aimed at creating a high, uniform level of data protection fit for the digital age, includes a ‘right to be forgotten’ as well as the right to know when your personal data has been hacked and replaces rules dating back to 1995 when the internet was still in its infancy.

The new rules are backed up by harsh sanctions including fines of a up to 4pc of a company’s global turnover if they don’t comply. So what are the key elements to be aware of?

  • A right to be forgotten – an individual right to have data deleted from companies when you no longer want them to have it, or because consent was given for something that no longer applies. This is distinct from the 3rd party Right to be Forgotten, where individuals can request that outdated or undesirable information about them be removed from search engines, (read more about the difference here) and the provisions are clear that this is about improving personal privacy, not restricting the freedom of the press or erasing past events. Historical and scientific research are also safeguarded. The only caveat is that where “the retention of the data is necessary for the performance of a contract or for compliance with a legal obligation”, such as on medical records, for eg, it can be kept for as long as necessary.
  • Clear and affirmative consent will be needed before private data is processed and this will require an “active step” such as ticking a box. The Parliament is clear that “silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity will thus not constitute consent. In future, it should also be as easy for a person to withdraw consent as to give it.”
  • Right to be informed in plain and clear language – MEPs have insisted that the new rules will put an end to “small print” privacy policies and that information should be given in clear and plain language before any data is collected.
  • Right to know if your data has been hacked – companies and organisations will have to notify their national data authority as soon as possible so that users can take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their data.
  • A right to data portability will make it easier for individuals to transmit personal data between service providers, such as to a new email provider without losing contacts and emails, and this information must be provided in a way that is easy to reuse.
  • Clear limits on the use of profiling – new limits where automated processing of personal data is used to “analyse or predict a person’s performance at work, economic situation, location, health, preferences, reliability or behaviour”, including creditworthiness. Under the new regulation, profiling would generally only be allowed with the consent of the person concerned, where permitted by law or when needed to pursue a contract and should comprise a human element, including an expectation of the decision to be reached. MEPs also insisted that profiling should not lead to discrimination or be based solely on sensitive data, such as  ethnic origin, political opinions, religion or sexual orientation.
  • Easier access to personal data: Individuals will have more information on how their data is processed and this information should be available in a clear and understandable way.
  • Special protection for children – Children below a certain age (for member states to each define between 13 and 16) will need parental consent to open an account on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. (This is already the case in most EU countries). They will also have a “clearer right to be forgotten” in case they are put under pressure to share their personal data without fully realising the consequences.
  • Privacy as the new norm –  data privacy by design and default are now essential elements of the EU data protection rules, and data protection safeguards will be built into products and services from the earliest stage of development, while privacy-friendly default settings will be the norm on social networks or mobile apps. In future, companies will have to design defaults and products so that as little personal data as possible is collected and processed.

    The new laws have been four years in the making and received the highest number of amendments (3,999) ever tabled in the European Parliament.

    Due to UK and Ireland’s special status regarding justice and home affairs legislation, the directive’s provisions will only apply in these countries to a limited extent, while Denmark will be able to decide within six months after the final adoption of the directive whether it wants to implement it in its national law.

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The Internet of Things’ ‘dirty little secret’ and your personal data

The Internet of Things (IoT) has always been billed as building a more connected world – but what if it’s just a massive personal data harvesting and monetising exercise?

That’s the gist of a slew of articles recently, following Google’s Nest’s decision to shutter the Resolv smart home hub company it bought in 2014, abruptly cutting off customers and their apps.

At one level, of course, this simply undermines one of the key IoT elements that has been overlooked in the rush to have a house that responds to your needs without even asking – that without individual data ownership, it can all be taken away in an instant. Not so convenient and connected then, is it?

But, that (important) point aside, all these devices work on data. Data about you, data about your home, data about what you do in your home.Huge, huge amounts of data.

Which means, as this Medium post points out: “The opportunities are delicious for bloated internet companies: now a software company could know how warm your home is, what times of day are noisy, whether you have a pet, when you turn on your lights or if you listen to music while having sex.

“Smart devices are sold as a way to improve your life — and in many ways, they do to an extent — but it also means those gadgets are incredible troves of data that could eventually turn into Software-as-a-Service money makers.”

This point is also made in this CIO article interview on Nest’s woes, which states: “The primary issue facing the industry today is not technology, it’s the business models that companies such as Nest use in attempts to claim complete control over their users’ data… Consumers don’t want just one connected smart device and consumers are never going to buy all of their smart devices from the same supplier…The problem is that everybody wants to own the consumer, they want to own the relationship and they want all the data.”

This goes hand-in-hand with another  important point: “The problem with the Internet of Things is that the hardware is only one aspect. The makers need to keep servers running to support them, keep APIs up to date, keep security up to date and, well, pay employees.”

Over time, this all adds up – and it eventually adds up to more than you paid for the device, particularly as many of the first connected devices like thermostats and fridges are long-lasting by design, and so will be in your house for years or even decades.

So you then become a loss-making client – and an obvious way to recoup that loss will be to sell on the data that is being created day in, day out, by you just living in your home, then fed back to the company you bought from.

There’s the option to charge a monthly fee, too, of course or cut you off – but based on current user behaviour around social media platforms, for example, giving up user data is often seen as an acceptable compromise for a good, free service.

And that’s the frightening thing. We should prioritise our data, the information that makes up the big picture and the detail of all our lives, above so much else, but the IoT is largely founded on companies banking we won’t.

That’s why it has a place in this world, but the key tech revolution needs to be to an Internet of Me – the re-centering of data around the individual, for them to do what they want with it and not for companies to sell on, and on, and on as a commodity.

We’re doing all we can to make that happen – spread the word and join us!

 

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Freeing your financial and bank data to do amazing things

Getting more insight into ourselves by gathering our personal data together in one place has always been a key part of the digi.me vision, and increasingly more industries are seeing the benefit in doing this too.

Take health and financial information – arguably the most intimate and private data about ourselves – but which informs what, where and how we live – and are able to live – our lives to a much higher degree than other datasets we create on or offline.

Services, such as digi.me, which are able to keep that information wholly private (we never see, hold or touch any data in our app) UNLESS the user can see some kind of benefit in exchanging it for personal value or reward are poised to reap the benefits of both customer engagement and retention.

Tailored services, personalised to you or helping you make financial or health decisions quickly and easily based on the data already known about you, have huge potential – we will be adding health and financial data into our app later this year for applications such as these, and businesses will be able to request permission to access your data if they make an offer in return that you are happy with.

So it was very interesting to read the excellent article by Christopher Evans, director at Collinson Group, titled ‘My data’s worth it – privacy versus personalisation’, which expounded on just these themes.

As he points out, social media and the digital revolution has produced customers who now expect services in real time, at the same time as having a greater awareness of the worth of their data. The increasing number of datasets held by institutions such as banks and credit card companies, for example, are ripe for personalisation as they cover behaviours, interests and motivations in many sectors – and never more so than when information from multiple financial sources is pulled together and normalised for comparison all in one place.

But as he points out, this knowledge alone is not enough: “The essence of a strong value exchange relationship between a business and its customer is one where the customer feels the benefits received are directly proportional to the data they have shared. A more personalised service is regarded as highly valued by consumers overwhelmed by generic communications and offers.

According to a Collinson Group survey of retail banking executives in 2014, developing a better understanding of customer lifetime value, and improving the use of customer data and insight actually ranked higher than investing in digital and mobile services, and further investment in branch infrastructure.

As he acknowledges, unease over data security remains an issue, with consumers aware of big data breaches such as TalkTalk and Ashley Madison and keen not to be caught up.

But, more and more, customers understand the value of their data, and want to be compensated when it is used, not just when it is lost.

The net result, he writes, is that: “Brands must place the customer at the heart of their business models. The future of loyalty and customer engagement is about so much more than simply adding a few more enhancements to pre-existing rewards programmes.

The rapidly evolving relationship between brands and customers, the emergence of digital disrupters and developments in the regulatory environment mean that stasis is not an option.”

Ultimately, he said: “In a world where data and the permission to make use of it, will separate the winners from the also-rans, striking the right balance between customer intimacy, and respect for privacy will become a key competency.”

We couldn’t agree more, and given that more than 250 million people around the world are now using ad blockers to stop advertisers and tracking companies from getting their information for free, we’re very far from alone.

Digi.me is striving for a more private world where individuals are put back in control of their personal data, and then able to hold it in one place for maximum personal insight as well as the ability to exchange it for personalised services.

A greater acceptance of the need for the privacy/intimacy balance generally to be more refined, in all industries and sectors, can only benefit each of us – and that more private, controlled world we all seek.