Frequently Asked Questions

What is “personal data”?PD is the data people generate in all quarters of their lives. The explicit things you create, like tweeting or posting a photo or making a video. Or the data created by things you do, like browsing, running apps, and playing music. It also includes things that will never be part of the social web, like utility bills, phone logs, and employee records. It’s data created by, with or about you.

Why is personal control of personal data important?People and companies are using data about you to make decisions that affect you. Credit decisions. Health allocation. Life insurance. Security clearances. Travel permissions. Employment screening. Child custody. Personal archives can produce self-insight. Individual  control over personal data produces more autonomy, choice and freedom in the marketplace. Individuals can directly benefit from their data by choosing what to share, when, with whom, and under what conditions.

How much personal data is there?

Gazillions. Eric Schmidt of Google estimates personal data is doubling every two days compared to all data we generated prior to 2003.[*] It’s beyond people’s ability to comprehend, but a personal archive can help people “see” themselves and get a handle on the exponential growth of our own data. The worldwide data explosion is generated by personal data growth as much as any other source. *MG Siegler, Techcrunch, August 4, 2010.

What is “user-centric”?

Wikipedia says “user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product.” In the world of personal data, user-centric means architecting the way personal data is managed so people control their own data.

How does this relate to concerns about privacy?

Privacy is the shallow end of the personal data pool. As we address giving users more control over their data’s collection, use, and storage, privacy is a natural byproduct.

What is a personal data ecosystem?

An ecosystem in nature has many different kinds of organisms. Together they make a living ecosystem. A personal data ecosystem has organizations that play many different roles, together bringing the user to the center of their data.

What kinds of organizations would you find in a personal data ecosystem?

A few examples: Data stores or banking services (PDS) help individuals collect and manage their own data.  Data vertical services provide services to users who share data from a part of their lives, like helping you get better shopping deals. Network services help the rest of the ecosystem play fairly and accountably. Some services add value to your private data through analysis, insight, and alerting. The ecosystem includes everything from PDSs, to apps that sit on those PDSs, to marketplaces to trade data, to VRM (vendor relationship management) tools to manage a person’s relationships with vendors they do business with, to auditors and open standards groups that help expose and define what is happening with our data, to trust frameworks that regulate what the rules are around that data.

How would those kinds of organizations relate to each other?

At the mechanical level, they will be sharing user data with each other on behalf of users. At the business level, they will work under contracts that describe good behavior, bad behavior, and consequences for poor behavior.

What problems in society could a personal data ecosystem address?

Personal data is a new asset class, the fastest growing asset class. Without a personal data ecosystem, we’ll face a new concentration of power and control by unaccountable institutions who aggregate, hoard, and sell personal data. Just as there’s a movement toward open data from governments, a personal data ecosystem can help people share their data in privacy-protecting ways that make society better. For example, people are often willing to share medical data for research, subject to anonymity and other conditions. A patient’s control of how their data is kept and used gives them the safety to share.

What problems in the enterprise could a personal data ecosystem address?

Today’s large aggregators collect personal data, largely without user consent or understanding. Information brokers will freely admit that half their data is wrong. When users have control over their data, they have incentives to keep it correct and current. This drastically improves the freshness, quality and cost of information companies use.
While companies have evolved sophisticated tools to manage relationships with customers, tools for customers have not kept up. A personal data ecosystem can help customers talk to markets as effectively as businesses do, lowering market friction, cutting marketing costs, and improving customer loyalty.

What is the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium?

PDEC is an industry association. Our purpose is to catalyze industry to make the Personal Data Ecosystem vision real. We support a user-centric model across this network.

What do PDEC’s members have in common?

We share a common value that people are at the center of their data. Our Startup Circle embraced these values from the start, incorporating user-centric practices in their technology and business models. Our Industry Collaborative has established companies intrigued by these ideas,  participating in the Consortium as they align their business practices with our values.

Why did you create the Consortium?

Kaliya Hamlin started tracking this space in February 2010, and convened the first meeting of what would become the Consortium in April 2010 after the Kynetx Impact conference. Startups were asking Kaliya to be an advisor because of her experience in the user centered digital identity community. The Consortium helps a strong field of many successful players find their own place in the ecosystem.

What programs does the Consortium offer its members?

PDEC offers its members news; industry research, intelligence and analysis; and channels for technical conversations including meetings and conferences.

One of the first challenges the Consortium faced was language: each industry has different ways of describing the same data and different models of how data flows. So PDEC helps its members air these differences and find common ground, leading to technical standards and future interoperability.

What is PDEC’s relationship with the World Economic Forum?

WEF’s Telecommunication Section has a three-year Rethinking Personal Data project. They are convening government leaders and C-Level executives while PDEC is supporting those organizations’ implementers, reaching out to startups, and organizing demand for these services. Many of PDEC’s startup circle and Kaliya Hamlin were interviewed for the project’s first Rethinking report.

How can companies join PDEC or subscribe?

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