Digi.me merges with Personal

This post originally appeared on Medium and was co-authored by Shane and Julian Ranger (@rangerj)

With today’s announcement of the merger of digi.me and Personal, the personal data ecosystem takes a giant leap forward. (You can read the press release here.)

Personal and digi.me have each helped to define this sector — one that emphasizes individual control over the growing amount of data and analytics about people that fuels the digital world. We have done so by introducing revolutionary tools and rules for giving people control over their own social, personal, financial, health and other data while enhancing privacy, and by attracting world-class investors and some of the brightest minds in the space.

Since 2009, digi.me in Europe and Personal in North America have shared a common mission — to put people, rather than companies and governments, in greater control of their own data.

We have each made great strides, but we still have a long way to go. This merger will get us there faster and with greater force.

The timing could not be better — or the opportunity bigger. A perfect storm is brewing among rising consumer awareness, new regulations and increasingly grave threats to personal privacy and autonomy.

Shane, left, and Julian

Consumers are increasingly aware of the value that holding their own data brings and rebelling against others taking it from them without consent. For example, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 2017 Global Consumer Trust study shows that when sharing data, 31% of consumers value personal data privacy-protection and access to it above financial rewards (29%) or discounts (22%).

Meanwhile, new legislation such as the European GDPR will deliver new consumer rights over ownership and use starting in May 2018.

And any citizen living in Europe or the United States knows that they are susceptible to various forms of government or corporate surveillance and data mining every day of the week. The vast quantity of data being collected and the deeply private insights from big data analytics and machine learning is accelerating geometrically, with users purposefully left out of the equation.

This collision of factors highlights the need for solutions like ours, but looking past the storm reveals a truly brilliant horizon. Indeed, the possibilities of what individuals and consumers can do when they control their own data are endless and powerful.

Users, businesses and governments all benefit when private sharing and consent access to personal data occurs.

With digi.me, users in Iceland, for example, can access their electronic health records and share relevant data with any medical professional who needs it through the Living Lab project — an example we intend to spread to other countries.

In finance, digi.me will be able to help consumers share their personal financial data with privacy and control with a banking or insurance company to help them get the best policy offer and reward their loyalty, but not by taking their data without permission and benefit for the consumer.

In education, Personal created a download app with the U.S. Department of Education to help make more than 100 fields of student financial aid data portable and reusable.

And a myriad of personal digital assistants and wearables will be able to arm consumers with the power of their own data just as they do for publicly searchable information like directions or comparison shopping for shoes or travel. Just imagine: You choose to integrate your personal data store with Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, say “Hey, Siri”, and all of a sudden you can access an image of your passport or get your bank account or health information served up to you instantly and ready to share.

There is a tailwind behind what both digi.me and Personal have been working on since 2009, and it gets stronger every day. The merger will allow us to expand quickly to meet this growing demand.

Personal has brought to market the world’s best product for individuals and small teams to create and collaborate on data needed for thousands of information-related tasks. It will be fully integrated into the digi.me app later this year. (Personal’s enterprise version of TeamData is being spun off as an information security and productivity company for businesses.) Personal’s development team is first class, and both digi.me and Personal have been pioneers in designing privacy and cybersecurity in their respective platforms every step of the way.

Our combined teams will hit the ground running. We are investing in expanding digi.me’s U.S. operation, which will now be led by Shane, and we are already beginning to work with major U.S. brands to partner with our apps and services.

On the development side, our teams in London, Sarajevo and the United States will work to expand the ecosystem of personal data API connectors to new third-party apps and services and will integrate with major brand partners in multiple countries around the world.

Welcome to the new digi.me — a powerhouse that will help consumers connect their data with companies and their governments to help them make better decisions and improve their lives!

Julian is the founder and chairman of digi.me. Shane, co-founder and CEO of Personal, is now CEO of digi.me’s U.S. business.

The Personal Data Economy at K(NO)W Identity Conference

I was happy to take part in the inaugural K(NO)W Identity Conference, organized by several ex-Googlers through their new organization One World Identity.

Although it turned out to be one of the more thoughtful discussions I’ve participated in on the emerging personal data ecosystem (hats off to Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Rainey Reitman for excellent moderating), it also shows the challenges of discussing such a complex subject in a room full of folks working on identity, privacy, security and data.

The biggest area of misunderstanding remains around the many win-win benefits for both individuals and companies when users are empowered with their data. Watch the video and let me know what you think @shanegreen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUhCVYUQ0vM

Today’s Facebook report on personal data & privacy gets a lot right

Is it a wolf in sheep’s clothing or a sign of enlightenment at the world’s largest collector of personal data?

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I must admit I was more than a little wary when I was invited by Facebook’s Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, Stephen Deadman, to participate in an off-the-record roundtable on the future of personal data and privacy. The involvement of the UK consulting firm helped convince me, given their long-time focus on building transparency and trust in this area. I’m glad I did.

I must admit I was more than a little wary when I was invited by Facebook’s Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, Stephen Deadman, to participate in an off-the-record roundtable on the future of personal data and privacy. The involvement of the UK consulting firm Ctrl-Shift helped convince me, given their long-time focus on building transparency and trust in this area. I’m glad I did.

Overshadowed by today’s announcement of 500 million Instagram users,Facebook released a report this morning called “A New Paradigm for Personal Data: Five Shifts to Drive Trust and Growth.” You can download it here: http://bit.ly/28L4HII or check out Deadman’s Op-Ed here:http://bit.ly/28LMDB9.

I hope Mark Zuckerberg reads it and internalizes its many good recommendations, especially given the powerful catalyzing role Facebook could play to empower people with data. It’s not just the right thing to do, it would be great for the company’s long-term business (oh, and for that pesky regulatory problem).

While much of the report’s thinking has been articulated previously, including by Ctrl-Shift, the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium (where Personal, Inc. was a founding member), the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Data and The Aspen Institute’s Communications & Society Program (both of which I participated in), it matters that Facebook spent its time and energy to convene so many trusted experts — 175 in all across 21 global roundtables — and to publish such a thoughtful and balanced report.

Unlike regulators, privacy and security advocates or most any industry player, no matter how large, Facebook is in a unique position to put the tools directly into the hands of their users and provide powerful direct and indirect incentives for them to start becoming hubs for their data.

In this model, users could re-use their data in a permission-based way, and in infinite combinations, across the entire connected universe at home, work and everywhere in between. It would be the ultimate democratization of data in a fair and transparent ecosystem where individuals actively decide when, where and how to participate in a robust value exchange tied to their data.

So why would Facebook take such a risk when its current business model is built on its ownership and control of user data?

Deadman answers that question in the introduction to the new report:

My observation from the years I’ve spent working on privacy and data related issues is that the personal data debate has been largely grounded in a limiting premise – that the desire to innovate with data is generally incompatible with preserving individuals’ rights to privacy and self-determination.

This premise is entrenched by regulators, policymakers and industry, as we tend to talk in terms of trade-offs, as though these two equally desirable goals will always be in tension with each other, and our only choice is to balance them off against each other.

I firmly believe that such trade-off thinking is undesirable – it leads to suboptimal outcomes – and I also believe it’s unnecessary: we now have the skills, technology and motivation to transcend this supposed trade-off.

He goes further:

The debate also entrenches an assumption that only organisations can control data, ignoring the ability and potential of individuals to take a more active role, exercising agency, choice and control over their own data.

I don’t think the evidence supports this assumption. What is more, when people have more control over their own data, more growth, innovation and value can be created than when they don’t.

It’s this very last point that will win the day. There is simply more opportunity to innovate and create value when individuals are empowered in this way. No single company, or government for that matter, can ever match the competitive advantage of individuals (or teams of individuals) to aggregate and permission access to the constantly growing and changing data from across their lives — including their connected devices.

And those who try to keep the individual out of the equation risk being punished as this new model emerges. Data collection, use and monetization simply can’t be kept behind the curtains much longer. Deadman is right to draw Facebook’s attention to both the opportunity — and the risk — of not embracing the rightful role of users.

There is also a surprising set of security benefits of a model with less standalone copies of data in the world, especially when the data that is shared on a session basis and comes networked with real-time validation and authentication. The future would not only be more secure with this approach, it also happens to be in the interest of the world’s largest identity provider.

In our own business, we are seeing this user-centric model starting to take root inside the workplace by and between employees. The enterprise is one of the few places where the need for individuals to practice active data management and data security is both understood and able to be mandated. It’s probably no accident that the Facebook at Work solution is one of the company’s biggest new initiatives.

The report finishes with grand brush strokes, painting a vision of a race to the top among companies who compete for access to user data based on trust, transparency and the value they can deliver. These market-based solutions have all the elements of the “digital enlightenment” many of us have been talking about for a long time.

For those of you worried that Facebook is simply trying to co-opt this new model before it is even established, or use it as a shield to avoid regulation, I understand the concern. But I really don’t think there will be any going back once it happens. As people wake up and experience the magic of having their data go to work for them, they will never be passive about their data or oblivious to its value again.

While Facebook has a lot to gain by being a leader, it has even more to lose by being seen by its community of users as holding them back. I applaud Deadman and his colleagues for taking such a bold position.

This post was originally published here on Medium.

A Rising Tide of Data, Partnered With Privacy by Design, Will Lift All Boats

This piece was originally published on the Disruptive Competition Project blog (DisCo).

 
DisCo

By Dr. Ann Cavoukian and Shane Green

Over the last year, we have started to see a remarkable shift in the way the world thinks about data and privacy. The old levies of compliance and binary permission settings are being washed away by a rising tide of data that is growing at a rate exceeding Moore’s Law.

In fact, more data will be created and captured this year than in all of human history. Fueling this explosion are connected devices so numerous that, according to a recent GSMA study, there will be more such devices throwing off data this year than there are people in the world.

In this rapidly changing data ecosystem, tools such as one-time notice-and-consent agreements and simple transparent disclosures are less helpful, perhaps becoming obsolete. Individuals can no longer be treated as passive data subjects who merely provide information for collection and use by an organization. Instead, more sophisticated approaches are required based on context-based approvals and, more importantly, informed individuals who are engaged with their data across their lives.

We too must evolve, and those companies and organizations that empower individuals to be full partners in this emerging personal data ecosystem will create tremendous value in the form of stronger, deeper and trusted relationships with their customers, thereby gaining new competitive advantages, including greater, not less, access to data.

The latest signs that these once revolutionary ideas are today becoming mainstream, and will tomorrow become the standard for doing business, are two recent reports by centrist, pro-business think tanks. Continue reading

Data Vaults Go Mainstream at World Economic Forum

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand and can also be found on the World Economic Forum Rethinking Personal Data website 
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In the last six months, a fast growing and somewhat unexpected chorus has emerged around the need to give people greater control over their personal information.

Mainstream think tanks are now focused on it – see the recent Aspen Institute report, which focuses extensively on “the new economy of personal information” and the central role of individuals in it.

Governments are also catalyzing this new model. The Midata initiative in the U.K. and the Open Data initiative in the United States are giving back government-collected data to citizens in organized, reusable form.

But what’s most interesting is the growing realization among companies that their futures are tied to building new relationships with consumers who are increasingly empowered with and savvy about their digital data, and who have growing concerns about how their data is captured and used.

That’s why a new report released today by the World Economic Forum, whose membership is made up of Fortune 1000 companies, is so important. “Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage” is a product of the Forum’s multi-year Rethinking Personal Data Project, and was led by Forum official Bill Hoffman (see his blog today on the report) and a steering committee of the Boston Consulting Group, Kaiser Permanente, Visa, Microsoft, AT&T and VimpelCom. Personal also participated, and is a member of the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Data-Driven Development.

When you consider the organizations behind the report, its major conclusions are all the more dramatic:

    • Companies and governments need to put people at the center of their data, empowering individuals to engage in how their data flows through technology. This means giving consumers greater access to and control over their information as well as the tools to benefit directly from it.
    • We need to move past old notions of privacy that revolved around simple notice and consent. Instead, companies should adopt Privacy by Design principles that address every stage of product, technology and business development. This would ensure, for example, that apps feature user-driven permissioning of data and have greater transparency and control over how it’s used and valued.
    • The report blows a hole through the canard that e-commerce and privacy cannot peacefully coexist. It’s not a zero-sum game. Instead, it’s a win-win for businesses and consumers where even more data can flow between trusted parties.
    • Perhaps most exciting, the report detailed a number of use cases in which companies are helping consumers to leverage their personal information to improve their lives, ranging from health care (Kaiser Permanente) to financial data (Visa) to automotive price transparency (Truecar) to online reputational information (Reputation.com).
    • Personal was also profiled to demonstrate how personal data vaults can make the time-wasting tradition of form filling obsolete, saving literally billions of hours annually, and greatly improving the delivery of public and private sector services. Check out www.personal.com/fillit to see how your company or organization can participate.

We’re excited to see the model we have been building over the past three years start to catch fire, and we expect to see a lot more progress in the next six months.

Data as a Human Right

This post was originally published on the World Economic Forum Blog.

WEF-logo

Data has the power to transform our lives – collectively and individually. What is needed to unlock the profound opportunity data affords to improve the human condition – and to defend against a multitude of threats – is not technical, but an ethical framework for its use by and beyond those who initially collect it, including providing access to individuals.

At its most fundamental level, data about individuals represents a new kind of “digital self” that cannot be easily distinguished from the physical person. Some consider it a form of property; others a form of expression or speech. Those working in the area of genomics often view personal data as the DNA sequences that make us truly unique. Whatever lens one uses, it has become increasingly clear that the consequences of how personal data is used are every bit as real for people and society as any material, physical or economic force.

Properly harnessed by ethical practitioners, the principled use of “big data” sets can improve our economies, create jobs, reduce crime, increase public health, identify corruption and waste, predict and mitigate humanitarian crises, and lessen our impact on the environment. Similarly, empowering individuals with access to reusable copies of data collected by others, also called “small data”, can help them drastically improve the quality of their lives, from making better financial, education and health decisions, to saving time and reducing friction in discovering and accessing private and public sector services. Evidence of the positive impact of leveraging data, by both institutions and individuals, abounds.

However, data, like the technology that generates it, is in and of itself neutral. It can be used for good or ill. With a proper, ethical framework, data can – and should – be leveraged for the benefit of humankind, simultaneously at the societal, organizational and individual level. Misused, its power to harm and exploit is similarly unlimited.

In fact, what raises the ethical use and respect for data potentially into the realm of a fundamental human right is its ability to describe and reveal unique human identity, attributes and behaviors – and its power to affect a person’s, and a society’s, well-being as a result. Just as in the physical world, basic rights and opportunities must be preserved.

Indeed, it is already well recognized that invasions of our digital privacy can be exploited for repression, and that technologies for sharing data can be harnessed to support freedom. More fundamentally, though, we need to extend our core rights themselves into the digital world. For example, we must adapt our notion of freedom of thought to account for the new reality that much of our thinking goes on in digital spaces – as does the management and sharing of our most private information. Preserving individual freedom will now require protecting autonomy with respect to our own data.

Clearly, cultural and regional differences regarding human rights in the analog, physical world are sure to arise in this digital, data-oriented world. We do not seek to resolve those issues, but to develop a clear framework of principles to help provide data, data access and data use the protections they deserve.

The Era of Small Data Begins

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

This is the first post in a series on the rise of “small data” and the new platforms, tools and rules to empower people with their data. It was written for “The Rise of Big Data” panel at the Stanford Graduate School of Business E-Conference on March 6, 2012.

Big data is big business

More data is created every year or so than has been created in all of human history. In this always-on, always-connected world, where even things are being plugged into the Web, the amount of data is growing exponentially.

The collection, storage, analysis, use and monetization of all that data is called “big data.” Corporations and governments are hyper-focused on becoming big data experts to avoid being permanently left behind. The first movers to master the art and science of big data are already changing the way we live, while disrupting industries and amassing fortunes at speeds never before seen.

Given the stakes, massive investments are being made every year to build the technology and expertise required to succeed in big data, optimized, of course, around the needs of companies and governments, not individuals. Industry experts have likened this big data boom to the early days of “big oil,” and refer to data as the “new oil.” Just as oil was essential to building the modern industrial economy, data has become the lifeblood of the new digital economy.

Companies must learn to compete in big data regardless of their industry, or else face obsolescence. This is a tough challenge and touches all aspects of the operations, strategy and culture of companies. At the same time, opportunities abound as entirely new industries are emerging around data as they did around oil — sourcing, extracting, refining, mining, analyzing, distributing, and selling large sets of data.

Big data creates big problems

With its insatiable appetite for digital bits and bytes on each of us, big data is driving a virtual arms race to capture and exploit information about our every move. Big data will log the life of a child born in 2012 in such a way that the person’s activities will be able to be reconstructed not just by the day, but by the hour or minute. In the hands of bad actors, the potential for wrongdoing with these permanent and growing archives of our lives is real and rightfully concerning.

Yet, until recently, people had virtually no idea of big data’s existence as its tools and marketplaces remained largely hidden. The next generation of tracking and data mining technologies are being created based on the assumption that individuals do not care enough to change their online and mobile behavior, which confuses lack of interest with the current lack of alternatives.

But with privacy and security concerns now front-page news, and the financial triumphs of companies built entirely from personal data such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, people are waking up and starting to ask tough questions. While companies and government regulators negotiate over how to curb the most egregious risks and abuses, a new and more powerful model is emerging that is designed around the needs and interests of people, providing them a far better, more sustainable alternative to the status quo.

Enter small data

Small data puts the power and tools of big data into the hands of people. It is based on the assumption that people have a significant long-term competitive advantage over companies and governments at aggregating and curating the best and most complete set of structured, machine-readable data about themselves and their lives – the “golden copy”. With proper tools, protections and incentives, small data allows each person to become the ultimate gatekeeper and beneficiary of their own data.

Built on privacy by design and security by design principles, small data can help people become smarter, healthier, and make better, faster decisions. It can help people discover new experiences more easily, reclaim time in their busy lives, and enjoy deeper, more positive relationships with others.

Small data can also greatly improve the capacity and performance of governments and non-governmental institutions, from eliminating time-consuming forms and other inefficient data practices, to improving public health and education by leveraging the power of more accurate and complete data provided with an individual’s permission. Such institutions can also help share important data with individuals, allowing them to have a copy for their own use.

Applied to commerce, small data holds the promise of connecting people with the best and most relevant products and services in a safe and anonymous environment. It can transform advertising into a more respectful, less disruptive industry that rewards people for their time and engagement with their messages and for their purchases. Small data offers customers the opportunity to better balance and assert their interests with companies (some have called this model Vendor Relationship Management (VRM)). Companies who play by these new rules and earn the trust of individuals will be rewarded with access to rich and robust data otherwise unavailable, giving them instant competitive advantages over companies who choose to go it alone.

The first small data platform – a data vault, private network and apps

Personal has spent over two years designing, building and launching the first scalable small data platform. At its core is a secure data vault to aggregate and store structured and unstructured data from just about any source. A private, personal network sits on top to set permissions for data to enter or exit the vault. People are able to connect with other people through the network, and soon with companies, apps, and private or public institutions, and decide which, if any, of their data they are willing to grant them permission to access.

We have put equal weight on privacy and security, and on helping people leverage their own data in exciting, new ways. These concepts are inextricably linked in small data, which requires a high degree of trust to function properly. Similarly, we have rewritten the legal rules of data ownership to protect and empower users, who we call owners. And, because we know relationships can sometimes end, we have built what we believe is the most complete data portability and deletion capabilities in a data platform. Trust doesn’t work unless you are truly free to leave.

In addition to launching our own apps in the coming months, we are inviting developers to apply for early access to build apps on our platform to show off the power and benefits of small data. Individuals have never imagined the magic of running apps on reusable, structured data about the most important things in their lives, while developers have never assumed having access to such high quality data on which to innovate. The possibilities are limitless.

We are excited to help usher in this new era where permission, transparency and privacy become the norm, and where companies and governments have to align around new rules and provide clear and compelling benefits in order to earn access.

At Personal, we see the future through the lens of small data — and we think it will change everything.