Unless you live in a cave and have never touched a smartphone or computer, you probably know that it’s impossible not to leave a personal data trail online. The invisible cookies are always watching our activities and the algorithms are always making suggestions for the benefit of the digital economy. With all of today’s connected devices, our society will soon be awash in data. Once data is produced, it rarely fades away—like a permanent marker you can’t get it off the wall, no matter how much bleach you use. Companies have been busy minting money by monetizing our personal data. In return, we get to use their app, website, or service for “free” and/or get a personalized service. As a result, we are becoming a type of product ourselves as nothing comes for free.
Sometime back I had published The Business Value of Trust report, highlighting the fact that 63% of consumers surveyed believe companies are accessing personal information that was NOT explicitly provided for their use (social network profiles, contact lists, location data, etc.). It is no wonder that consumers have a growing concern over their lack of control in how their data is mined—in fact, 53% of consumers don’t believe the claims made by companies about protecting their private data. Many companies believe they have done their job by publishing policies regarding data privacy and security, but over half the consumers we surveyed told us, “Those policies are Greek to us!” That’s why we all glaze over at the “Terms & Conditions” before pressing the “I ACCEPT” button—no matter how hard we try to protect our information, it’s almost impossible to do it.
Unfortunately, the deepening issue here is the growing lack of trust between consumers and the companies that use personal data in a way that was not expected. So, it’s not really surprising that consumers perceive very few industries as highly trustworthy when it comes to the use of their personal information. On average, only 43% of consumers have a great level of trust in institutions across industries. Considering these facts, we can’t continue to sit around and quibble about the data pigeonhole; instead, we need to address this enormous issue by flipping it on its head.
With all the fervor over data these days, we really need to start recognizing its true value and understanding that all data created by us is our personal property, not the property of the company that collected it. As consumers become more educated about how companies are using their data, they might be willing to assume more risk in exchange for more than simply a personalized experience or a free service. In fact, 72% of consumers surveyed feel that cash rewards would motivate them to share their personal data with companies. This kind of open and transparent trade-off, called the give-to-get ratio, will be the new norm of consumer trust in the future. It’s up to us to decide what we choose to disclose or not disclose about ourselves—in which contexts and with whom. I pondered over the issue of why we deserve more for our data here.
As consumers begin to demand full control of their data, there will be a need for a new role that will bring transparency upfront by ensuring consumers receive maximum value from their data, and we believe a “Personal Data Broker” role will emerge in the future. The Personal Data Broker will monitor and trade all forms of personal data that a client (consumer) creates from his/her micro data feeds; execute data trades on behalf of consumers; and track new ways of maximizing a client’s return on data. Workers in this new role will establish prices and execute trades while mastering the new global code of ethics surrounding interstate, international, and regional data trades. We have thoroughly outlined our vision about this role in our new report: 21 Jobs of the Future. In the report, you can read the exact job description for this new role, along with information about its roles and responsibilities, and the skills and qualifications the role will require in the future.
It is undeniable that we need to establish more open and honest conversations about the future of information sharing and how we want our data to be traded in the digital economy. We deserve more for our data, and while it may sound odd today, signing ‘personal data contracts’ may become a new normal in the future, so make sure you’re ready for it.