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Your Data, Yourself — in the Marketplace of Me

On a typical day, we leave a vast trail of data in our wake. Our browsing histories, online preferences, shopping habits, work decisions, social interactions—all are rendered in binary code, prompting a complex interaction of requests, responses, affirmations, and denials.

And that’s just from our laptops and smartphones.

What about when the Internet of Everything — with its explosion in connectivity from 10 billion “things” today to 50 billion in 2020 — truly shifts into overdrive? At that point, our clothing, our houses, our cars, our lawns, and our refrigerators may be generating ever-larger torrents of data — all about us.

This upsurge in personal Big Data has big implications. Indeed, each person’s emerging digital persona will go a long way toward defining their place in the world.  Furthermore, all of that data already has great intrinsic value to Internet giants, retailers, financial services companies, and many others. If we manage it right — in what I see as a burgeoning Marketplace of Me — some of that value may come right back to us.

Here are just a few of the rising implications surrounding the digital persona and the Marketplace of Me:

  • Through the Filter.  Life is pretty complicated already. Email, Facebook, Tweets, passwords, user names, multiple devices — we love them, but they drive us crazy. Now, throw in Tweets and emails from your house, your car, your refrigerator, your shoes, and your dog (his smart collar, that is). We will need to receive only the information that we need, when it is most relevant — and allow machine-to-machine communications to handle the rest. For example, if your house regulates its own temperature while you are away, it won’t need to tweet for affirmation. But if a pipe breaks and the basement is flooding, you will want to know (after it automatically shuts off the water).
  • You Are Your Digital Persona. Increasingly, the digital world’s perception of you will define your place in the world. The media you consume, the shows you watch, the food you eat—all leave a thick trail of digital information that influences targeted, personalized ads as well as online connections and perceptions. People — and organizations — will want to manage their online presence actively. Negative comments, such as a complaint on Yelp, are difficult to shed. So, expect the need for managing digital personas to spur new businesses, services, and apps.
  • Power to the People.  As consumers take better control of their online presence, they may become increasingly empowered by the inherent value of their data. As things stand today, we freely give up all of that information without compensation. If personal data were to be monetized, the equation could shift dramatically. For one thing, privacy concerns would fade if consumers grew more willing to give up their information for compensation. Web giants such as Google could also be disrupted. Most people search with Google, freely giving them data. But what if a rival offered consumers, say, 10 cents a search? The search engine market might be upended quickly.

The best way to sort these issues? A system based on private ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, characterized by the freedom of individuals to operate or manage their assets for profit in competitive conditions.  If that sounds complicated, well, the good news is that it’s already here: free enterprise. The answer is simply to allow natural market forces to disrupt and renew value associated with the Marketplace of Me.

That is already beginning to happen. Here are a few recent developments that tie in to the Marketplace of Me:

  • Handshake is a new company that offers a data-sharing platform. Users can sign up to connect with various companies, deciding which data they are willing to share, and for what price.
  • Facebook is allowing users to log in to other websites using their Facebook ID. This simplifies life for users, and may help Facebook monetize data in the future.
  • Mastercard’s global Digital Sharing and Trust Project found that 64 percent of consumers believe their personal data has value to merchants and advertisers. Fifty-five percent of the respondents appreciate it when companies tailor offers to them based on the information that they share.
  • The Open Mustard Seed (OMS) Framework is an open-data platform that enables users to “securely store and process static and dynamic data about themselves.” In effect, it gives users better control of their data and digital personas while challenging the current model of giving away personal data for free.

I believe that as the Internet of Everything continues to accelerate, there will be many more solutions. And the Marketplace of Me will bring greater opportunities for managing our digital personas and realizing the worth of our personal data.

Because when it comes to data, you are what you generate.

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