Google’s Schmidt to Mydex: yes, individuals should own their data

So it comes to the crunch. How will Google, world’s most successful online business and cloud services provider, react to the inevitable emerging reality of user control over personal data? With grace, to judge by the reaction of chairman Eric Schmidt and chief director of privacy product & engineering Alma Whitten, speaking with David Alexander (1:00 in) and William Heath (2:15 in) from Mydex at Google’s Uk Big Tent, May 2011: they believe it already.

This conversation was written up by BBC correspondent Jane Wakefield (thanks Jane! Good to meet you..):

What people really need is a “dashboard for their lives”, argued David Alexander, director of Mydex, a social enterprise that is designing a platform where people can manage all the data they share with others. Creating such a “personal data eco-system” would allow people “to stand on an equal footing with government and big corporations”, when it comes to data sharing, he said. Mr Alexander suggested that Google would be very welcome to sign up to it but that it would have to agree not to share information with advertisers

David’s final point, not quite captured in the video or BBC article, was that Google will be a powerful player in the new personal data ecosystem as long as it really relinquished control over personal data (including analysis, commercial exploitation and other added-value services) back to the individual where it belongs. Alma pointed out that handing over control back to the individual in this way this might present difficulties for a conventionally incorporated business, which has VCs and shareholders pressing interests to meet. David’s counter-observation is that it is precisely for that reason that key players in the emerging personal data ecosystem will be structured as foundations or social enterprises. Mydex itself is a Community Interest Company.

Lovely day out. The star of the day was Egyptian blogger Wael Ghonim *respect*. Good to see Jeremy Hunt in action, and positive about the Hargreaves review. Thank you Google, Privacy International and Index on Censorship.