Skip links

Personal Data Stores Want to Give Individuals Power Over Their Data

Blog. A group of start-ups is trying to change the digital infrastructure from multinational control of personal data to individual control of our own data. It is so new and it’s called everything from Personal Data Stores, the My Data Movement to Personal Information Management Services.

Imagine that you get a reminder over your phone whenever it is time to take your medicine. That you can optimize your personal finances by linking your credit card information with the electricity and water bills, rent, bank accounts and calendar. That you can fight jet lag by combining your sleep patterns and health with your travel plans. With thermostats in the home together with your calendar, location data and weather data, you can ensure that your house is heated and ventilated in accordance witht the weather conditions And with shopping lists and location data you can get an alert when you pass a store that has just what you need.

There are many ways in which we can use our data in our own favour as individuals. But in today’s digital infrastructure, commercial companies – such as Facebook, Google, Axciom and Experian – and states control our data and decide what is relevant to us. Personal data is primarily for the benefit of industry or state – rather than of the individual.

A movement towards changing the infrastructure where individuals are transparent and have little control over their own data, is kicking off. It aims at turning over multinational control in favour of individual control. It is so new and varied that there it no common term for it yet; it’s called everything from Personal Data Stores (PDSs), the My Data Movement, The Internet of Me, SelfData, Personal Information Management Services (PIMs) or Vendor Relationship Management (VRM the opposite of Customer Relationship Management, CRM).

The Individual sets the Privacy Settings
In this new infrastructure multinationals, smaller companies and the public sector will remain major players, but the idea is to create the framework for a new middleman standing between them and individuals, namely the PDS sector, states the report ‘Personal Data Stores‘ (PDS) made for the European Commission for University of Cambridge.
The report defines a PDS as a technology that enables an individual to gather, store, update, correct, analyse and share personal data. Of particular importance is here the individual’s ability to give or withdraw consent to third parties’ access to your data. You set so to speak your own by default privacy settings.
The University of Cambridge researchers have great faith in the PDS-industry. If it suceeds it will restore the balance of power between companies and individuals, boost consumer confidence and create new big data research opportunities and facilitate savings in the public sector, they say.

The Non-Profit PDS
There are the non profit PDSs. An example is the non-profit Data for Good Foundation that seeks to provide a platform to gather citizen’s health information, injuries and relevant behavioral information and pair them with social data such as education, work, weight, age, residence, hobbies and relevant self-measuring data such as blood pressure, sleep and steps pr day. All these data the individual will have access to and control over and can use to improve his lifestyle. Insurance and pension funds, municipalities, researchers and other third parties only get access to the data in an anonymous form – so they do not get identifiable data, but only insight into patterns. Data for Good Foundation wants to ensure that micro-tariffing, ie the calculation of premiums for individuals, is done ethically and that the principles of solidarity among insurance and pension funds are not lost.

The Commercial PDS
There are the commercial PDSs. The British PDS Citizenme is an example of a commercial PDS that want to give you insight into yourself and money to share your information with companies that want more insight. Everything from your Facebook likes to your zip code is merged in Citizenee, and it is only you who have access to your data. Citizenee does not store data and has no access to your data, unless you give the company access, because you want to be paid for companies getting insights into your and others data. In other words, you are paid to be part of user and opinion polls. The PDS is European and subject to European data protection legislation. According to the CEO and founder StJohn Deakins Citizenme is making a extra effort to convey its privacy policy so that it is understandable for non lawyers.

The book DataEthics – The New Competive Advantage –  describes a shift in business development towards individual control. Personal Data Stores or ‘My Data’ are part of this trend. There are multiple examples of non-profits, commercial and even multinational PDSs with an embedded objective to provide individuals with control over their lives. But for these to be successful, individuals will have to take responsibility for for their own data. And that is a huge task. Further, it is important that credible organizations take on the responsibility to verify which PDSs can be trusted. A company like Facebook that has gained its core profits on personal data cannot be a trusted PDS, unless it reverses its business model complety, so individuals and not shareholders are the main benefitters of their own data.

The main part of this blog is based on the upcoming book DataEthics – The New Competitve Advantage authored by Gry Hasselbalch and Pernille Tranberg