Data Science

Is a Personal Data Economy The Answer To Our Privacy Problems?

30 Oct 2017 | Share

At the beginning of the tech age, the data we created and stored was limited to a few pieces of mail and paperwork we kept filed away in a drawer. Those days have been gone for decades. There’s no denying the power of personal data— it changes businesses, countries and lives, but individuals are often left to balance the cost/benefit of sharing their personal data in exchange for more convenience. Perhaps it’s time to usher in a new era and a new economy—the Personal Data Economy.

Personal data protection is something many people have wanted since the advent of the smartphone. Now, it looks as though we’re getting closer to having it.

As you may have read, the European General Data Protection Regulation is less than a year away from instilling massive changes that will impact how businesses that receive and use our digital information, end up maintaining and processing this data. And no, Brexit won’t change this. The provisions will also provide citizens with new rights around accessing the data the companies have on them.

Is this the dawn of a new era of digital civil rights?

Well, hopefully.

The UK startup digi.me is already working to address personal data issues through a platform and apps that allow individuals to store and manage their own digital information. The company’s team believes that when people are able to share accurate, complete and rich data on their own terms, new opportunities for creating more innovative products and services come to light.

Digi.me’s first pilot launched in Iceland in May during Startup Iceland, a conference that brings together tech and entrepreneurship thought leaders from across the globe to build a sustainable startup ecosystem in the country. The service is giving citizens control and ownership of data categories including social, financial and health.

So, Why Iceland?

I caught up with Startup Iceland founder Bala Kamallakharan for some insight.

“Iceland is a country in the size of a city, and technology adoption is quite fast once the value is proven,” says Kamallakharan. “Given Iceland is the first country in the world to have created an API for health records, we believe it will give rise to innovation in healthcare.”

He also explained that Digi.me is connected to the Icelandic health records and that through the Directorate of Health and Dattaca Labs, Iceland created a health API that can potentially allow any citizen in Iceland to download their health data into their mobile phones. The data is secure, doubly encrypted.

“We are in discussions with all the major corporations in Iceland to do the same,” shares Kamallakharan. “Our mission is to enable the Personal Data Economy.”

Digi.me founder and CEO Julian Ranger says that following positive, initial feedback, Digi.me is moving out of the pilot phase, and opening up to the wider community. The plan is to roll out the service to the entire population, based on the findings of the beta test. Plans to take the service to the West are already in motion.

“We are expanding our data reach,” says Ranger. “We are working with a variety of larger businesses partners, for example Amgen, to undertake trials in the US, UK, and a number of other countries simultaneously before we embark on wider distribution in 2018.

In August, Digi.me announced a merger with Personal, which also offers apps to store and share personal data. According to TechCrunch this merger is going to position Digi.me to have a presence in the US.

How does owning your own personal data do your body good?

Regarding any positive impact cultivating a Personal Data Economy can have, Ranger says that through working with various health partners, it’s clear that immediate benefits can be obtained for all participants in the health community including patients, GPs, hospitals, researchers and medical innovators.

He also says returning data to individuals immediately solves two issues: availability of health data for treatment when individuals move or travel and better self-awareness concerning one’s health. In the next six to 12 months, Digi.me plans to cover more data categories including wearables, genomic, music and video consumption, telephone, text, purchases and more.

With companies like Digi.me and Personal in effect and the new GDPR rolling out soon, there’s a chance that personal data rights will become the norm. Of course, someone will need to track all the data to be sure.

What do you think about personal data rights? Share your thoughts with the Exasol community below.

 

Melissa Jun Rowley works at the forefront of the intersection of technology, media and social impact as a writer, digital strategist, entrepreneur and international keynote speaker. She is currently the co-founder of Resolve, a specialist accelerator partnering with sector-leading organizations to help startups across the globe scale internationally. Additionally, Melissa provides content strategy, partnership development, and digital transformation consulting to Fortune 500 companies and social enterprises. As a seasoned journalist, she raises global awareness around frontier tech and social change, gender issues and international development. She started her career as a field producer for CNN and the Associated Press in New York and Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured in BBC News, Fast Company, CBS News, NBC, MTV, TechCrunch and The Guardian. @MelissaRowley