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Customers in Control of Personal Data Means Better Data

Analysis. Your customers are the best source of rich, relevant, recent, true and personalized data about themselves. In stead of collecting data from multiple more or less valid sources, it is smarter handing over the control of their data to them, help them work with their data and share the benefits with them.
In France, an interesting experiment is going on, when it comes to the future of personal data. A group of companies are giving back data to their customers. The data is stored safely, and a community of developers and organisations develop tools, so individuals can empower themselves with their data. Meanwhile researchers follow the process and feedback. In the end, the hope is that companies will not only get better data, they will also have a sustainable data ethical business model.

Such is the vision of the project mesInfos and some of the first results are also showing that personal data control makes sense for all parties.

According to Fabien Coutant, project chief in Enedis, the French electricity distributor, who is participating in the MesInfos project, 40% of users said their smart meter data helped them reduce consumption.

“Giving back data to customers means they are empowered and in control. They start understanding what their energy consumption means. 10% of them checked it every day, linked it to their energy habits and some of them even started to change their behaviour. In a few years, we will have many more users doing that,” said Fabien Coutant.

Among the other participants in the MesInfos project is insurance company Maif, telecom Orange, the city of Lyon, gas- and electricity providers and a credit company. The personal data from the companies are stored in a personal cloud with the company The customers can then add his or her own data like photos or social media data, and use it all in tools provided by developers.

Fabien Coutant was one of 800 participants in a 3-day conference in Tallinn/Helsinki beginning of September 2017. The MyData Conference, which could also be labeled a movement headed by the Finns and Estonias with aid from the French, is about how and what it means to put the user in the center of their own data in stead of the current Internet business model, where big corporations and states are in full control of your data and thus makes the most out of the data for their own gain.

“For years we’ve been told to collect data. But customers are the best source of rich relevant recent and personalized data about themselves,” said Stuart Lacey, a keynote speaker and founder of Trunomi, a consent management platform.

Another participant at the conference was Thijs Turèl from the Dutch company Alliander, where he works with smart city and energy technology for the city of Amsterdam. He is running a project ‘Democracy by Design’ about fair use of algorithms in smart cities.

What does transparency actually mean in a smart city context?” he asked in a session about transparency. “A lot of people are talking of open data, but many don’t understand that. Our goal is to design a smart charging station as a prototype for transparency.”

The transparent smart charging station, which will be launched September 28, is built on an algorithm based on public data such as availability of solar panel production and electricy price, and on personal data like; when does the user need to leave, how full is the battery and what is the next destination. It is the first charging station which is particularly designed to allow users to understand how it comes to its automatic decisions.

According to the Democracy by Design project there are a lot of ethical questions to consider in building a smart city infrastructure such as; when an energy system’s malfunction leads to temporary scarcity, who will enjoy uninterrupted energy supply? And who will have priority on the congested roads when a road accident has happened?
Daniel Kaplan, the founder of Fing, who runs MesInfos and co-author of the MyData Declaration will be talking at the DataEthics Forum September 29th 2017 in Copenhagen