Who should have control over our personal data, in an age where our data are being used to create digital products and services?

The digital economy relies on data, and this reliance will only increase in the future as companies capture, catalog, and cash in on data in every step of their supply chain.

Enterprises collect vast sums of customer data to provide greater levels of personalization; and consumers integrate social media, entertainment, cloud storage, and real-time personalized services into their daily lives.

Founder and CEO of ImagineBC Erik Rind has developed a revolutionary idea to democratize the marketplace and enable individuals to take ownership of consumer data and, importantly, monetize it for themselves. 

DigiconAsia taps his insights in the following interview:

In the digital economy, how are our personal data being used to create products?

Rind: Big Tech consumes our personal information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ,directly through our interaction with our devices, and they consume our intellectual property through platforms like YouTube.

Big Tech’s factories are designed to deploy state of the art technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), to bundle up our information into neat little packages that can be sold off to 3rd parties who are only too anxious to pay for our information so that they can directly target us with ads and offers.

Meanwhile, Big Tech is accumulating the largest fortunes ever known to mankind.

The real question that needs to be asked and answered is, who is entitled to control our personal information and intellectual creativity and even more important, who should monetarily benefit from having control of that information?

My company ImagineBC believes the answer to that question is obvious. Every individual should be entitled to control how their data, their creativity and their time is used, and the individual should be the primary beneficiary from the monetization of their data.

The consolidation of wealth into the hands of the few has coincided with the introduction and mass exportation of big data and AI/ML technologies. The hazards to individuals, should we allow the current trend to continue are obvious. History has proven over and over again that the larger the gap grows between the haves and the have nots, the less likely it is to maintain a stable democratic society. Concerning indeed. We the people can no longer remain passive. The time has come to organize and take back control of our information.

With organizations handling more and more personal data, how should we secure such data?

Rind: Organizations need to be removed from the equation. Reported hacks like those of Equifax, Capital One proved they cannot be a trusted custodian of our information. Blockchain technology is probably overhyped as a panacea for all technology problems, but when it comes to personal data, when combined with the IPFS, it is absolutely the right solution for our future.

Although governments will need to get on board, there is no reason why we should not be working towards a future where when a child is born, their birth certificate is stored directly into a newly created personal wallet. The child’s parents will have the key to this wallet until the child reaches maturity and takes full custody of their personal profile.

As the child’s journey through life continues, all their important personal information will be added to their wallet using a classic blockchain dual verification system. Grades received in school, diplomas achieved, driver’s licenses issued, their passport, all this information will exist within their wallet under only their control, but it will all be readily available to be produced when needed.

An individual’s blockchain wallet will become the only accepted proof of their identity.

When the individual wishes to receive services requiring the sharing of their personal information, they will be in complete control of how and when their data is shared. Organizations will only need to ensure validation of information. If I am an establishment serving alcohol, there is no reason I need to see an individual’s name or address to verify their age.

A simple green or red light can indicate whether I am old enough to be permitted entry, by placing my device on a scanner to access my date of birth from my blockchain wallet. No loss of personal information has occurred, and everyone is legally covered.  

How could the value of personal data be democratized?

Rind: ImagineBC is working on solving this exact issue. Let’s face it: it’s all about attracting an advertiser’s attention and making it more beneficial for them to compensate you than to compensate big tech.

There are a few crucial things that must occur in order for personal data to be democratized.

It starts with the idea that there is really no such thing as ‘free’ in the world of technology. If you are receiving a free service from a technology vendor, there’s a pretty good chance that they are really in the business of collecting and selling your information to other third parties.

So, individuals need to become aware and be ready to start paying a fair fee in exchange for the protection of their identity and the value that identity holds.

Individuals must organize into larger units or communities. Advertisers are after numbers, so to convince them to spend their large budgets within a platform that benefits the individual rather than continue to use big tech’s platforms, you must prove you have a large enough population to grab their attention.

However, it’s not just about numbers. New technologies such as AI/ML have created an appetite amongst advertisers for ever-narrower targeting of their message to consumers. So, these same technologies must be used by the platform provider, with the understanding that the majority of the benefit from their use will go to the individuals who have been targeted.

Individuals must accept that this type of service is not free of cost, so some minority portion of the benefit must go back to the provider who has helped create these earning opportunities for them.