The Fox is Guarding The Personal Data Hen House (and he has weapons)

This week I watched the excellent documentary The Great Hack. A horrifying story, very well told; congratulations to all those involved in making that and bringing that story to the general public.

I’d recommend it to everyone, but most especially those in large private or public sector organisations sitting on large troves of personal data. The essence of the story is that:

  • the personal data asset class is now ‘more valuable than oil’
  • the vast majority of it is controlled by a small number of ‘for profit’, supra-national organisations
  • un-scrupulous actors can insert themselves into that eco-system and weaponise the personal data assets
  • the effects from them doing so are gigantic and world-changing
  • what they have done is only the tip of the iceberg

That’s pretty scary stuff. The key points made, in my view anyway, are that the products/ services that enable organisations to access and manipulate personal to achieve specific objectives are seen as weapons grade; and that we will see this kind of thing happen time and again unless something is done to change that.

So what can be done to change that? Not easily, not overnight; but it can be done.

Firstly, what won’t work, is regulating to stop it happening; that’s been tried already with GDPR. While regulating may slow down and lessen the effect, it does not address the underlying problem which is that huge volumes of the now weaponisable asset that is personal data sit with large, supra-national, for profit entities. For profits have to maximise the use of their own assets, so are not the right entities to build and guard that personal data hen house. The alignment of incentives is wrong in that model.

So we need to find a model where the alignment of incentives is strong and sustainable. I would contend that this is where the MyData model comes into its own. In that model:

  • The capability (for data management and selective, informed sharing) is built on the side to the individual. That is the game changer
  • Genuine propositions that seek to use personal data can still flourish; but dubious ones unable to persuade the individual of their merits in an open, transparent way will fail
  • The various incentives are aligned with the needs and wants of the individual

Looking beyond that immediate fox and hen house problem (which is big enough anyway); the MyData model is the only way that individuals will gain general control over their personal data, and not the faux control enabled by GDPR.

Lot’s to discuss then at the upcoming MyData conference in Helsinki, 25th, 26th, 27th September 19. See you there.

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