Let’s face it, it’s all over the place. Your emails and all their attachments are on Gmail, or maybe Yahoo. Your educational and professional history is on LinkedIn and your social shenanigans are on Facebook. Your music is in iTunes and your photos, and a whole heap of other stuff is in Dropbox. And there’s more of it on your PC and your mobile phone.
Your personal details, like name and mobile number and email address, are on most of the web sites you signed up for, and your financial details are with your bank and credit card providers. Your investments are with your broker and the deeds to the house you own, if you own one, are lodged in a bank somewhere along with legal documents, like your will. The frustrating truth is these apps and services you enjoy so much have become quite entitled to your personal data, storing and sharing it and selling it as they please. The good news is that as a data creator, you don’t have to keep accepting this truth. You have more power than you realize. Before I get to that, let’s look at the types of data that we each possess.
Can We Reclaim Our Data?
I’m glad you asked. The answer, I believe, is “yes—but it will not reclaim itself, and you cannot do it right now.”
But before you even think of that, it makes sense to have some idea of what your personal data is. Here’s a list:
- Basic personal information. Some of this data is what you might be asked for when you sign up on a web site, such as name, gender, date of birth. It also includes contact data like email addresses, mobile number and physical address.
- Credentials. This is formal identification data that proves who you are or possibly just gives you the key to unlock some door. It includes such things as driver’s license, work visa, passport, birth certificate, marriage license, social security number and so on. It also includes digital credentials that give you access to websites, accounts, software applications and so on.
- Personal history. If you include everything this is a big category: your education record, your employment record, travel, criminal record (if you have one), family history, health record and financial record. To this you can add your personal digital history—a full audit trail of all your digital activities, click by click, since the birth of the Internet. Of particular interest is your shopping history, online and off. You don’t have to guess why.
- Profile, Interests and Preferences. This is the kind of data that advertisers want to know about you; likes, dislikes, hobbies, sports interests, entertainment interests, political and religious interests, and so on. Even the content of your camera roll (screenshots, photos, videos, geotags, and all) is accessed at an alarming frequency. Additionally, there exists a digital map of your day-to-day location, thanks to GPS tracking capabilities built in to most mobile applications.
- Proof of Ownership (or Title) and Digital Possessions. The data here includes deeds, titles, provenance, appraisals and other documents that relate to or prove an individual’s ownership of possessions such as a house, car, antiques, etc. It also includes details of any items that you have created or manufactured: machines, works of art, books written, music, videos and any patents. To that you can add all your digital possessions, including all photographs, videos, music, sound recordings, software they have bought, data files and so on.
Our problem is not whether we can reclaim all this data. Most of it is already under our control in one way or another. And to add to that, the GDPR legislation from the EU has forced many big personal data businesses—the likes of Linked In, Google and Facebook—to give us our data in a convenient form should we request it. Our problem is: what would we do with our data if we did reclaim it all?
Why Would We Reclaim Our Data?
To be realistic, the crusade to end personal data exploitation has only just begun. It began with the realization that our data was being exploited. It would probably not have entered our heads if Facebook and Equifax had not badly mismanaged our personal data and been caught in the act. The advent of GDPR in May 2018 might have given us some pause for thought, but there wouldn’t be much momentum to the idea of reclaiming data if it hadn’t become clear that our personal data has value and we, rather than the big data companies, ought to be able realizing that value.
And that’s where we are. But until there is some way for people to realize the value of their data, nothing is going to change. That’s what we are working on at Permission.io, formerly Algebraix. It’s an ambitious blockchain project and it’s all about you.
Our idea is simple: if advertisers pay Facebook money so you can click on their ads, surely they will pay you to do so if there’s some way that can be arranged. And there is. It’s called Permission.io. You join, you watch ads, you get paid in Permission tokens (ticker: ASK) and you convert that into dollars at your leisure. Of course, there’s much more to it than that: we intend to entertain, we expect content providers to sell their content for tokens as well.