We need a better, smarter solution for all of the problems we're having with the myriad ways in which our personal information is being used, abused, shared, stolen, distributed, dumped and otherwise hijacked for novel and nefarious purposes-- all of it far beyond our intentions and almost universally without our permission or consent.
I'm always struck by how little thought we give to the critical information that is an essential part of our everyday lives and how little we know about the care and control being exercised over it. Take a minute or two and try (before you read on) to think about the major data buckets that define your life and daily activities.
As an obvious example, financial comes readily to mind, but it's not simply a compilation of the information we need to have readily available in order to enable our purchases. There is an enormous pool of data about our assets and property: our investment portfolios and whatever other tangible and intangible property we may own or control. And this analysis, including our current and prior debt, and repayment histories, then determines our creditworthiness and borrowing limits. Finally, there is all of the info regarding our every selection and purchase and how vendors, brands, marketers and others can work that data to influence and ultimately even change our expectations, desires and real-time behavior.
Other major buckets include demographic and psychographic data, medical records with all its complicated intersections regarding insurance and medical care, and data across every dimension of our lives-- political, religious, gender preferences, and social materials including the non-stop flow of newly-created and forever archived content in all formats, etc. Here too, as more and more consumers of content also become creators, the glut of mineable material will continue to grow exponentially. In addition, there are mountains of data (ultimately valuable to each of us) being accumulated every day on the opposite side of each activity and transaction by the counter-parties. This is the bi-lateral aspect of information creation. Much of this data has considerable instructive and educational value for us in terms of tracking our own performance, behaviors, activities, health and consumption, but none of it is currently available to us.
Securing, managing and protecting our data is a global crisis that's already out of control and a situation that's only likely to get more critical over time-- especially because the next couple of generations are so generally indifferent to it. I'm not sure that they even understand the concept of privacy when nothing is sacred and everything is shared. Worse yet, it seems likely that this is one of those problems that we are incapable or otherwise unable or unwilling to solve for ourselves.
We're all contributors to the problem because we're impatient suckers for speed and convenience. We decide every day to share our personal information in more and more diverse kinds of digital interactions to save a few minutes instead of painfully re-entering our basic stats and identity into the umpteenth terminal or browser or mobile app to complete some purchase, connection or other transaction.
I wouldn't hold my breath for any help from the government; nor would I have any confidence in anything created and offered by those bungling bureaucrats in any event. It may be that anti-theft and fraud progress will be forced on us by the credit card guys--the transition to the "chip card" is well underway. Biometrics and facial recognition technologies may also help.
But ultimately, I believe the solutions that will make the critical differences are going to be developed by innovators operating outside and independent of the current industry players. In part, this is because we have so little trust and confidence in the traditional systems that we are far more likely to adopt new solutions and approaches. One of the amazing aspects of the Internet has been its constantly increasing ability to enable us to trust and do business with people we have never met, whether we're talking about an Airbnb house guest, an Uber driver or a EBay seller.
This type of environment, of course, is exactly the kind of situation that creates great opportunities for entrepreneurs. We've got wallets and we have a variety of password "safes" and other vehicles but, in their very design and security-focused implementation, they defeat the ultimate goal of being a constantly-refreshed and updated personal data node on a worldwide network. One in which every element of your data profile can be stored and accessed in real-time --all of the time.
We need a new object and here's an idea that I think is worth taking for a spin. A SPIN (Secure Personal Information Node) would be a repository for all your information and also bi-lateral because it would not only provide you with output at the point of sale, but it would also accept and incorporate input from every source that you uniquely authorized and permitted. Every transaction would be two-directional and each action would increment and enhance the core profile and the aggregate of all the data. A simple dashboard would permit you to change and update consents and permissions on the fly and to vary the depth and the amount of information and access you wanted to be able to securely provide to third-parties in each type of transaction.
It won't be easy, but it's coming because it's inevitable. Maybe you'll be the one to make it real.