Kickstarting the Data Economy

Data Dignity For All

Data dignity and data rights are now buzzwords but what do they mean?

Well, by now most of us consuming information online and downloading apps to socialise or work know there is, what seems to be, a very painless trade off. We get to access sites and digital services if we just consent to handing over our private information.

This can be as innocuous as a company tracking the way we use their site to a company receiving information on our location and reading our private messages. Most of the time we aren’t even aware we’d given our permission.

This is usually because it is hidden in those laboriously long user agreements (which are longer than some novels!). Sometimes it’s because we don’t really care that much about exchanging our personal information for using a company’s services.

Some of us are also very aware that WE are in fact ‘the product’ and all the information harvested from our interactions is the means by which a company will primarily make money. The question is: is this a fair and equitable relationship?

When we look at the vast revenues of companies like Facebook it becomes clear that something should change and the people supplying the data should command a share of the profits. It is certainly an ethical question and a matter of dignity.

Why should these companies be the only party that benefits financially? Can the inequitable relationship be redefined?

I say it is time to redress the balance of power.

There is a growing data rights movement globally with people finding solutions such as data unions and data markets: creating or using existing software to bring a fairer world into existence.

The main barrier historically has been technological however now the tech exists to create the infrastructures for data unions and markets. The other obstacles have been data literacy and understanding within the general public. More people need to know that solutions such as these are possible.

The other issue is that the products available just aren’t accessible enough. There is a great need for a well designed simple user interface creating a seamless user experience.

To ease the on-boarding and transition, a simple customer facing data market may not be the best way to build traction. The creation of  a data union or market wrapped in a product the consumer ordinarily interacts with may be the best way for the public to engage with data markets initially. They can then reap the benefits of controlling, owning and financially benefiting from their data without friction or being overwhelmed or put off by the mechanics and abstract theories.

This ‘ease of adoption’ approach does not negate the wider aim for pervasive and effective public education with community building at its core. The more the general population knows about new technology and possibilities for future developments, the easier it will be to introduce other ideas and extol the benefits of continuous building and adoption in this space.

This ‘community centred’ approach to enterprise building is now a fundamental component of decentralised ventures and is directly correlated to the success and traction of new products.

The monetisation of data supply and exchange, or data marketplaces, are not new concepts. However the real empowering change will come from the wider distribution of this income and the wider societal transformation effected by change in economic, technological and knowledge power structures.

There are many ways to approach the mechanisms to do this. My research will look at the main ways in which we can present the most effective model for P2P, B2C and B2B exchange.