Privacy For Sale: The Currency Of The Future Could Be Our Identity

The barriers to most innovation in the lab are not what you may expect.  Typically what is possible is less framed by technology but by society. We now face problems that come from legislation and from privacy more than from hardware and software.

This is not for one second to undermine their importance, but I often find privacy to be a force that few are willing to tackle and yet some are oblivious to it.

We now live in an age with extraordinary amounts of data being captured. Our phones alone ( and this is a common theme of mine) know more about us than our best friends combined , increasingly they will capture more data, share more data and remember more data. Our phones ( and this is another theme) will soon be a hugely powerful enabler of an easier life. Data increasingly comes from more places, and whether it’s Target knowing you’re pregnant before you do, or your car insurance knowing how you drive it’s increasingly powerful and pervasive.

With all this information comes the opportunity for brands and services to be more accurately targeted, to bring you offers and to be able to add more value to your life. As services like FreeMonee, Google Now, and better eCRM evolve it will soon become clear that the more you share about your lifestyle and spending, the better suited and the more generous offers can be. I think soon we face an interesting value exchange where by opening up ourselves will lead to a much better experience in all that we do. It’s where our personal data becomes a form of currency to exchange.

This is not a new phenomenon, Tesco launched the Clubcard in 1995 and soon after 15 million people in the UK we rejoicing at money off, special “club” treatment, and money back, mostly unaware that they had opened the door to the retailer ( anonymously) collecting vast amounts of data about their shopping behavior that they could sell to many providers for huge sums of money.

But despite the relative age of this debate, it still seems there is a huge disparity between attitudes and it’s mainly split along the age divide. My sense is that the older fear data being collected, they see it as a sigh of intrusion, they feel violated and vulnerable. They expect to be able to keep hold of their data and that people who access it will inevitably misuse it. I’d love to show them a website like Spokeo and show them the degree to which they have already lost the battle to maintain secrecy.

Younger people realize the horse has bolted and the fight to maintain privacy is lost, they now behave in an open broadcast fashion, sharing all manner of details voluntarily on social media without any concern. It’s not like they don’t value their privacy, it’s just they’ve never had it, and don’t long for it.

So the next few years should be interesting, with Google Now able to offer an almost concierge like service that provides us with constant recommendations, who will be able to resist the temptation to cash in some privacy for a little help, everywhere they go.