Tech Giants, Trust & Data: A Conundrum

We all know about the data breaches From Facebook to Google, Snap and others. Then there’s the unending stream of stories about how our data is being used; from AdTech companies through to the platforms themselves. Our email being ready, every click analysed. Now we’ve got wee speakers in our kitchens that we holler at to either play some music or shut off the lights. They’re collecting data too. And our phones and increasingly, our cars as well. And whatever else we have connected. The tech giants and well, any tech company seeking to scale are going to have to deal with the conundrum of gaining consumers trust and managing the vat swaths of data they collect.

Data Governance is a Hot Mess

Any tech giant collects data, lots and lots of it. They know where it goes, for the most part, within their organisation and perhaps 2 layers outside. But they don’t really know what a third, fourth or fifth party does with. And where it goes beyond those companies. Their own data governance may be quite good, but in terms of governance at an industrial level? Not so much.

Increasingly, companies are looking at new ways to sell or repurpose their data for new revenue opportunities beyond just advertising. Data marts or exchanges are starting to grow. This field is called “infonomics” as coined by Doug Laney of Gartner Group. He literally wrote the book on it.

It’s a mess. There are little to no regulations on how data is sold, licensed or used beyond a single point. Rules exist for marketing and financial reporting, but data travels in much more diverse ways today.

The Sticky Wicket

None of the tech giants want a data breach. None of them aim to manipulate data in a bad way. They truly want  to use the data to make their products better so people will use them and find them ever more invaluable in their daily lives. The sticky wicket though is that they all run “ecosystems” that have third parties building services off their platform and they need data too. The challenge comes in governing that data once it leaves the hallowed walls of the tech giant. That’s pretty much impossible to do. Managing it is onerous at best.

It’s Not Easy for Government Either
With all these breaches and concerns of privacy, governments in developed nations have tried to introduce varying degrees of rules and regulations. The most stringent being the GDPR in the EU. That’s causing some issues for Facebook and will hit others. But we can’t expect government alone to battle these issues. Artificial Intelligence hasn’t done much and probably won’t for a long time yet.

Potential Solutions Exist
Data travels in incredibly complex and winding ways, touching such a vast amount of different services and apps from ISP’s to telecoms companies, mobile carriers and more.  Data also travels back and forth across borders via so many routes that governing it becomes impossible at best. There are options.

Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the Web is proposing a consumer data protection solution called Solid through a startup called Inrupt. The goal is to give consumers ultimate control of their personal data. It’s based on something called a Solid POD. Sounds solid.

Alternatively, Blockchain could also play a role as it would provide a similar or even greater degree of security of ones data.

The Tech Giants might argue that such stifling of data could hinder it’s development of incredibly awesome new products. No, it won’t. There will be enough data that users let through. Other ways of collecting data in more transparent ways exist as well.

Solutions exist. The challenge will be convincing consumers that the solutions can be trusted. A difficult challenge when trust in governments is incredibly low, trust in tech giants isn’t much better and we live in an increasingly complex world.

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