Tag Archives: data

digi.me and the ‘single social stream’

We’ve had such an exciting time here of late, finalising our £4.2m Series A funding and sharing our future plans for health and financial data, that you could be forgiven for forgetting just how awesome our existing app is.

So it was great to see it get some press coverage in its own right, from Mike Elgan at Computerworld, who has a huge interest in the whole sphere of ‘lifelogging’ and building a truly connected world.

Riffing on Facebook’s statement from the time of its IPO in 2012 about wanting a more open and connected internet, he laments the fact that Facebook, these days, is actually more about just trying to do that by getting all of the users itself, through organic growth and the acquisitions of both Instagram and Whatsapp.

And that, actually, most of us access multiple sites, maintaining multiple friend lists and interactions with the people on them, rather than being able to do all of this in one place.

But this brings its own problems: “The trouble is, using several social services is really hard — all that switching from one mobile app to the next, and from one website to the next. Each has its own design, menu structure, settings and configuration options, and processes for handling photos, likes and mentions.

“It’s also impossible for someone with a lot of friends to remember which people are on what network. Most people who try to use several social networks end up forgetting about some and spending most of their time on one, or maybe two. So much for an open and connected world.”

But he sees many benefits to a single stream, where all your posts are gathered in one place for insight and convenience, and guess who he has just found out about? Yep – digi.me – and he’s already a big fan:

“So there you go, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: Digi.Me is a platform upon which you can build a service that achieves Facebook’s mission to make the world more open and connected — without a Facebook monopoly.”

While he sings our praises here – and even more so on his FatCast podcast interview with our founder and chairman Julian Ranger – “the company makes a product that you should absolutely be using” it’s only fair to say that we’re not the total solution to his single stream desire – he wants somewhere he can import the posts of others, too, and a single place where he can interact with them all, and that’s not what we do. (Although in time we expect to become a platform that others build their own services on.)

But we thoroughly recommend both reading the interview and listening to the whole podcast for an excellent and interesting discussion about what social media activity is today, and could be in the future.

And we can only agree that you absolutely should be using digi.me!


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.

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.

Only trust can set data free – but with power comes responsibility

Trust is key to living life online – but the actions of some threaten the peace and security of the rest of us.

In the same week a survey of US web users found that almost half of households had a user who had been deterred from shopping or banking online, or posting on social media, because of the “chilling” effect of privacy concerns, researchers thought it was ok to release the personal data of 70K OKCupid users, including details about sexual desire and drug use.

The researchers claimed that the data was already public, as technically anyone on the site could access it on individual profiles, but they have been criticised for releasing it in bulk without any attempt at anonymisation or, much more pertinently, getting the consent of the users concerned.

The biggest concern today stopping users from sharing more personal data is the lack of control over what happens to it once the initial purpose is complete.

The new GDPR legislation becoming law in 2018 will give a huge boost to personal privacy concerns in this area, only allowing information to be used for the requested action and not re-used or sold on, as well as the right to the withdrawal of consent at a later date.

But the truth is that current unscrupulous methods, from the researchers mentioned above, to ad tracking firms which scrape our data without consent and then follow us around the web, are harming innovation and openness from which we could all benefit, in pretty much every area of our lives.

Open data is a great and wonderful thing – bigger datasets fuel quicker scientific progress, the planning of new services and products to meet genuine needs and, within companies, deeper and better relationships with consumers.

Data that all can see, draw on and use for the greater good can help write wrongs and generally formulate a better world.

Many minds make great work – and the more data they have to do that with, the merrier.

Health, in particular, is ripe for data-centered innovation, which could help predict and prevent illness based on patterns in other patients with similar lifestyles or symptoms, or even speed up cures by providing more data for greater numbers and frequencies of studies and trials.

But there is – understandably – an unwillingness to share this most personal information when scares over cyber attacks and a general feeling of lack of control is rife. Not to mention the fact that companies benefit from the value associated with our data but we, all to often, do not.

So the onus is on those working responsibly with data – such as digi.me, which never sees, touches or holds your personal information – to firstly be clear about this, and secondly work with legislation and like minds to make trust in personal data strong again.

The sharing of data benefits everyone from individual users to companies to scientists – but those of us doing it right lose out while there are still shady practices making the headlines.

And this is why it is imperative to find a new way, returning personal data to the control of the individual and changing the very basis and structure of online advertising so that it doesn’t take our data without our consent.

The data-driven innovations we seek and know are ripe for explosion will still happen – but they’ll happen sooner if a broken system can be re-energised and trust restored.

And so those of us who are the keepers of the trust flame need to shout long and hard until everyone moves to the beat of our drum.


Are data-savvy teens the first generation to get the Internet of Me?

The instinctive digital literacy of today’s teenagers is making them the most connected and aware generation yet of the power and value of their personal data.

The latest Realtime Generation report found that the life of today’s UK teen is largely mobile and spent online, with 93% owning a smartphone and spending up to nine hours a day on the web consuming, publishing or creating content.

As consumers, the survey of 1,000 13-17 year olds found that the teens were alive to the commercial value of their personal data, willing to exchange information if it results in a better service or deal. 42% would even opt to take £15 for sharing it over earning cash from a job, while 48% are already storing personal data online.

Three in four also engage with brands online as part of their shopping ritual in the hope of seeking a better deal.

In terms of trust, a substantial 44% trust UK Government with personal data, in exchange for better services. At 25%, social media platforms are the least trusted while 38% trust brands and 37% trust service providers.

This is all heartening to us here at digi.me, who believe firmly the move to an Internet of Me with each of us at the centre of our own connected lives and in control of our data is the next technological revolution, and the only way of solving the current escalating war between ad blockers and ad tech companies.

That the upcoming generation already sees the sense and potential of our founding vision will help this step change to a new way of personal data control and sharing, with digi.me as the base layer, evolve faster with more weight behind it.

Our Permissioned Access model, coming in later this year, will work on just this principle – the sharing of data, with consent, in return for personalised benefits or rewards.

The survey also found that these teens are tech-savvy, with 43% already coding or wanting to learn.So this generation not only knows what they want, they’re going to be able to build the tools to get there if they don’t exist already.

Report author Gerry Carroll said: “This generation is busy developing the skills it needs for careers that don’t yet exist.

“The next decade will see an influx of employees whose capabilities will be light years ahead from our existing expectations of ‘ICT skills’.

“Able to create, build or knowledgeably commission the IT they want, today’s teenagers are a future workforce with the potential to enable and transform the UK’s digital economy.”

So the future is very bright and very promising!

Privacy attitudes harden as consumers wake up

All the signs are that mass consumer awareness of the issues surrounding data privacy is finally reaching a tipping point that will force an economic consensus for action.

Already this year we have seen the re-writing of the Safe Harbour agreement, agreement for the GDPR in Europe (also affecting those who trade with us), the stand-off between Apple and the FBI over encryption and the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK.

Governments and businesses know more about us than ever – and consumers are fighting back. Over 200 million people now employ ad-blocking software, fed up with intrusive trackers that steal their data without their consent and affect their page loading speeds as well as taking up excessive bandwidth.

So it’s of little surprise that OpenXchange’s Consumer Openness Index 2016 shows a hardening of attitudes in the past 12 months.

The headline statistic is that people care about privacy more than ever before, with 80% of the 3,000 questioned believing everyone has a fundamental right to privacy.

The Internet-savvy populations questioned in the US, UK and Germany also said they are more likely to stop using many types of companies if news of a privacy scandal emerged, while those who believe that companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google should never have the right to share personal data is now up to 57%.

“Governments and corporations are gathering unfathomable amounts of information about the online lives of every individual,” said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange. “As a result, it’s no surprise that across the world, people increasingly fear their personal data is exposed. Worse than that, recent studies have shown that people feel powerless to protect their data. But there is hope: there are signs that citizens believe that compromising their right to privacy can no longer be tolerated. They are asking for greater transparency in the services they use and the politicians they elect, and searching for solutions to protect themselves.”

Consumers are also demanding the ability to protect their data, as the majority (88%) would be interested in at least one encryption-related service, such as a one-click button that encrypts outgoing email or encryption as a standard feature of applications they use.

All of which is good news for the good ship privacy and all who believe in and sail in her.

This survey, and many others before it, reinforces the belief that underpins everything we do here at digi.me, that the current system is broken beyond repair and needs radical transformation. Neither users nor businesses get what they need from the current advertising model, and both sides are trading salvos in a war that shows every sign of escalating without the prospect of resolution.

We believe the only solution is a new way forward, a connected world centred on the individual in control of their own data, that businesses can then approach directly for access for rich data in return for something the user wants, in the form of an offer or personalised service.

This is what digi.me will be when our Permissioned Access model comes in later this year, and this move to the Internet of Me is so important that we are sponsoring an industry-wide forum to find the best solutions for all – you and the businesses you deal with; whoever, whatever and wherever they may be.

The future is bright, the future is you – and we look forward to helping and guiding you on that journey.



Why what big data knows about you is not scary

An article about 21 scary things that big data knows about each and every one of us RIGHT NOW caught my eye this week, but I didn’t find it as creepy as the author did – in fact all I could see were the possibilities.

The article, as you would expect, goes on to list all of the ways we’re leaking data constantly in our everyday lives, some obvious, some not so well known.

So while most people are aware that Google knows what they’ve searched for, they may not be so aware that the search giant has also assigned each of us an age and gender, based on those searches and other tracking. (As previously discussed, this is over the creep line of what is acceptable for most people, and is certainly one of the factors behind the millions of people who’ve installed ad-blocking devices on their computers.)

Facebook, on the other hand, has a pretty good idea of how healthy or otherwise your relationship is -as well as how intelligent you are, and how satisfied with life.

Those cat pictures you’ve uploaded to the internet mean, thanks to geo-tagging, that anyone who wants to can work out where you live, while your phone also knows where you live and work.

Author Bernard Marr concludes by saying: “This is actually just the tip of the iceberg. As we dive deeper into the benefits big data can provide to us, we’ll also be happily coughing up more and more data. The iPhone Health app, for instance, can collect data about all kinds of intimately personal things about your health.

“It’s up to us, as consumers, to be aware of what we’re giving away, when, and to whom.”

Well, yes – awareness is one thing, but it’s also unarguable that using free and ubiquitous services like Google and Facebook, which are so involved and important to our lives these days, is impossible without handing data over.

But I’m digressing slightly, because my main reaction when I read that list was simply wow. Amazing. What great things technology can do these days.

If it’s creepy at all, it’s because all that information about me, and you, and everybody else is collected externally by hundreds of different companies, and we can’t access it or use it for ourselves in any meaningful way.

But the data itself? The insights it gives into my life, thoughts, interests and purchases? That’s fascinating and insightful – and if all in one place would give me a unique picture of both who I am and what I show to the world.

So it’s not the data that’s creepy, it’s how it’s taken and where it ends up. So that data, under your control in your digi.me app, would be a thing of beauty and wonder – and it’s not just a pipe dream, it’s a working reality that is coming soon!


The Internet of Me: are you up to speed?

The Internet of Me forum that we are sponsoring and supporting is already bubbling away with some very interesting ideas and conversations, and we don’t want you to miss out!

Designed to support and encourage the natural – and much needed – evolution of the personal data economy from a place where people have things done to their data to one where they are back in control of it, and at the centre of their connected world, it has already featured interviews with such luminaries as Doc Searls.

Below are some links to the latest and best content – do delve in, you won’t regret it!

Living fully human lives online is all about taking controls

Technological innovation tends to be disruptive by nature. It renders the old way obsolete by way of improvement. It changes things, offering us a different tomorrow. The pace of innovation is now so fast that we expect it even before we can anticipate the form it will take, and embrace solutions before we’re aware of the problem. Disruption has become the norm.

America has lost the world’s trust on personal data . . . so the UK can lead us into the future

While Silicon Valley might still be tech’s Mount Olympus, there is a vast, multibillion-dollar frontier ahead of us into which America cannot lead us. The United States has lost the moral authority to create the environment in which the value in our personal data can be unlocked by technological innovation and made to work in a way that balances the benefits to us with the needs of business.

Let’s hear it for the bad guys: What the Dark Web can teach us about trust

Drug dealers, pornographers, gun runners, hackers and cyber criminals — shifty, unreliable and untrustworthy types, right? They certainly don’t feature in many surveys of the most trusted business sectors. And yet when it comes to trust as the foundation for how we both live our lives and engage with businesses online, it seems criminals can teach us all a lesson or two.

Ad tech: A blockheaded way of doing things

Victory is ours for the taking. We have been handed the weapons we need to strike the decisive and fatal blow. It has never been easier to rid ourselves of the annoying and intrusive advertising that gets in the way of the valuable online experiences that are part of our lives. The content filtering capabilities baked into Apple’s iOS9 software sent ad blocking apps soaring to the top of the App Store sales charts.

There are lots more great interviews and contributors lined up as well, so do keep checking back!

Apple vs the FBI – the fight for privacy

At a time when many of us are more aware than ever before of how private, or not, our lives and personal information are online, the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI is setting up to be the digital fight of our times, with a huge amount at stake for all of us – so where do you stand?

At the risk of being accused of fence-sitting, it’s clear there is merit on both sides, so no easy answers – but that hasn’t stopped the tech world lining up, mostly to back Apple’s stance.

As advocates for a more private world, and greater responsibility and controls over personal data generally, it’s hugely welcoming to hear a company citing user privacy as a key factor in the huge decision to oppose a legal order.

Personal privacy, and the responsibility each of us has to help find, develop and limit other people’s impact on it, is a huge topic of our times. Companies are increasingly realising this too – and there is an increasing feel that a new balance will need to be struck, a finding of a middle ground that all can live with and feel is acceptable.

As well as Apple’s stand, Mozilla has just released a new video series with a similar message – that we all, as active web citizens, need to take a stand to stop privacy erosion impacting on our lives. And the first step towards that is knowing what is important to us, and what our battle lines are – which Apple has clearly both identified and drawn.

The flip side, of course, is that while we’re all for online privacy and security, its real-life counterparts have very real needs too, above and beyond those of their digital cousins. We all want ourselves, those we love and our communities and world generally to be a safe place, and technology has a huge part in making that happen. It is also vital that those in charge of protecting our real-life privacy and security have the tools they need to do so, and can ask for expert help when they are struggling. But what we need to find is the line where reasonable becomes overreach, and this is the essence of the current battle (and indeed the state of the personal data economy more generally).

As we increasingly seek (rightly) to take more control of our own data, to own it and use it for our purposes rather than having companies take and use it without our knowledge, these decisions become ones that we need to make our own minds up on, rather than delegate to others, because we all have a significant personal stake in how this plays out.

Of course, the courts will ultimately decide the outcome of Apple vs the FBI, but the ramifications and continued debate over what constitutes reasonable government access to private data will hopefully help set the internet community, as a whole and in time, on a path that the majority can support.

Happy #DataPrivacyDay – have 75% off digi.me to celebrate!

As personal data privacy pioneers, we’re delighted to be supporting the international initiative to promote better privacy security and awareness – and are offering 75% off our premium product to help you protect your data for less.

Here at digi.me, your personal data privacy is hugely important to us and, while we free your data to do amazing things for your benefit, we never see, touch or hold any of your personal information. So that’s about as private as you can get.

We know online privacy, as we explored in our recent blog, can be a tricky concept to pin down, but think it’s great that awareness campaigns like this are helping ever greater numbers of people get on top of what information they share with whom.

When even the likes of Google are getting in on the act, it’s clear that data privacy is an issue that arouses a great deal of interest. And we’re delighted that a subject so close to our hearts is finally starting to get the attention it deserves.

So we hope your data has a great day. And that it’s as private as you want it to be.