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MyData signs on first Finnish operator as battle for consumer data rights rages

MyData is not a company which many would have heard of, but it is one everyone should start to take notice of.

The concept of MyData is quite simple. This is a non-profit organisation which acts as the middle-man to collect and manage consumer’s personal information and data. It is a single point of contact where a consumer can manage the flow, depth and breadth of personal data which is flowing across the digital world.

Companies who are betting big on the data-driven world of tomorrow will not like organisation like MyData. This is an organisation which aims to take control of the data-driven digital world, and hand it to the consumer.

This might sound like blue-sky-thinking, but in signing-up Finland’s first operator, Vastuu Group, the idea is starting to spread.

“In today’s data-driven world it is important that the use of personal information is fluent and human-centric,” said Vastuu Group’s Deputy CEO Mika Huhtamäki. “Vastuu Group is a founding member of MyData Global network. We want to build co-operation between different MyData operators and enhance sustainable data-based business.”

For the consumer, this is a very interesting and beneficial idea.

As it stands, the world is not educated on the dangers of the internet. There are still a vast number of unknowns, both in terms of how users could endanger themselves and what the consequence of lost/stolen/copied personal data actually is. Because of these unknowns, few people are appropriately guarded when engaging with the digital economy.

For example, your correspondent has recently downloaded an app called ‘WalkIn’, which allows the user to digitally stand in the queue at restaurants which do not allow bookings. It is a very good idea, though only when researching this article did your correspondent dig into the terms and conditions to understand where the collected personal information was heading and what it was being used for.

In this example, there was little consequence. WalkIn Limited is a company run out of Manchester, and while it collects far more information than necessary for the app to perform effectively, it does not look to be engaging in any nefarious data sharing practises (although this is very difficult to judge on the surface).

This illustrates a point. How many applications have been downloaded by an individual without checking into who the developer is, what information is being collected and where it eventually ends up? We suspect 99.99% of downloads (if not more) would fall into this category.

Firstly, the user is not aware of breadth, depth and type of personal information which is being handed over. And secondly, as few people could remember every single app they have ever downloaded, tracing this information down to understand the consequences will be incredibly difficult.

With companies like Vastuu acting as guardians of personal information for the consumer, it is a logical step to improve the safety of the internet and the digital economy. With the creation of a new business model, “Authorisation as a Service”, companies like Vastuu will be a central point for that consumer, allowing data to be tracked and for the companies who want to make use of it, to be held accountable.

Theoretically, this is an attractive proposition for the health of the digital consumer, but for it to work, the developer community will also need to be engaged. This might be a bit trickier.

Data-driven technology companies are difficult beasts to pin down, especially those in the app economy. Few people would recognise the name of developer organisations, but these companies control the personal information of unknown numbers of people. Such is the embryonic stage of regulating the digital economy, the concept of auditing and reporting on personal information which is being held is almost non-existent. These companies have to prove they are safe-guarding it properly, but few people peer inside the walled gardens.

This dynamic is largely by design. Facebook builds incredibly detailed profiles on its users to serve the advertiser, and it is not alone here. Sky in the UK has a platform called AdSmart which allows you to target adult women, with two children, living in a south-east London, second-time mortgaged semi-detached home with a two-year old BMW in the drive. Other developers sell information onto parties where ambitions are a bit more nefarious than promoting the latest lipstick shade.

In any case, sceptics and critics of the current digital economy will suggest these companies want to muddy the waters as some consumers might retaliate and refuse to engage when the curtain is drawn back on the data wizard. There is probably an element of truth to this, which perhaps explains why a data-intermediators like MyData are not commonplace today.

MyData is an organisation which has the power to do immense good in the digital economy, but it will not be a simple path to success.

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