Blog Posts Business Management

Data, Democracy, and Competition

Blog: Capgemini CTO Blog

How much value do you place on your personal information? There are a lot of people out there keen to get their hands on it; sometimes legitimately, and sometimes less so. But even with the legitimate routes, risks abound.

We share our data on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media on a daily basis. That data is very valuable for analytics, marketing, even for assessing mood sentiment and predicting future actions and health. Very valuable indeed. What is worrying, however, is how that “value” is concentrated in the hands of a small number of media platforms with very little control from ourselves.

For both companies and individuals the use of personal data provides the potential of great benefit, but also equally great risk. The issue facing regulators globally is how to prevent the benefits from only going to the few (those collecting the information), with the risks faced by the many (us).

Let’s take an example: If you are a parent, you may find that the only way you can reliably find out what’s happening at your kids’ school is via Facebook or Twitter. Homework deadlines, school trips, closures due to the weather—these are important things to know. And it’s not just schools; more and more organizations choose to communicate in this way. This forces individuals to sign up to get this essential information, even if they were resistant before. Moreover, it means signing up for the terms offered.

Meanwhile, the benefits to the companies facilitating this communication in the form of advertizing revenue, coupled with the power of social media analytics, are enormous but concentrated in the hands of the few. The “price” (i.e. nothing) is set by the service provider, so there is no option but to accept. The risks, which clearly lie in situations like the loss of that data (look at Equifax), are personally high.

GDPR and PSD2 are part of the EU’s attempt to address this imbalance. On the face of it, they are diametrically opposed: One dealing with restricting the use of personal data; the other looking to open up the ability to share data. Yet their aim is really the same—to give control to the individual. GDPR seeks to ensure companies only use the data in the way the customer wishes it to be used. PSD2 opens the market up to allow customers to choose who and how their (in this case payment) data is managed.

It might not mean customers are paid for their data use, but it does at least ensure they are asked, and provided with greater choice.

It doesn’t stop there. The EU’s vision for the digital economy will no doubt take these concepts further over the coming years. The aim is providing customers, who of course are also voters, with greater choice and control, and challenging trends toward monopoly.

The spin-offs arising from this ethos are beginning to emerge. Organizations such as CitizenMe are now providing applications that give the public direct control over how their data is shared and over if and  when to get paid. Trends in marketing have also changed significantly as a result of the rise of big data and enterprise analytics. Yet the analysis is only as good as the quality of the data and that is often notoriously poor. What price is good-quality data consciously provided by the consumer? That’s what CitizenMe offers: The ability to choose to personally share quality-approved data at a price. Yes, you can be paid for your data.

All of this is really good—data is seen as a personal asset, with a real value and control is provided to allow genuine choice on data use. But it needs to be underpinned with public demand. Do people want a competitive marketplace with choice, regarding their data? It may seem a ridiculous question, but in reality we the public have yet to really wake up to the real value (and risks) concerning the use of our personal data.

There is a real danger is that the regulation seeks to supply an answer to a demand that is just not there yet.

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