Why not use Data as a currency?

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The media consistently warn us about sharing our data; warn us about organizations using our data. Even sharing data with your own Government is considered bad. But why?

Of course organizations need to safeguard our data and use it responsibly. We also need these organizations to be upfront about how they will use our data. However, nobody ever points out the advantages; and we just hear about the drawbacks and the problems.

Some years ago, I started my own company and the Irish Government saw enough potential to give us some small grants to help us on our way. To apply for the grant, we had to write letters, giving permission to other government departments to share my records with the government department, which would give us the grant (to verify that I was not in receipt of any other grants, social welfare or similar). Think of the inefficiency, cost, delays, etc… because of this process. This kind of government inefficiency costs me money, because it comes from the income tax that I pay.

If I have to pay tax for inefficiencies, why don’t we share information to increase efficiency and reduce my tax bill?  Part of my tax bill could give access to my personal data. I feel that access to my wallet is as invasive as access to my data.

Since my data is so valuable, I would consider giving access to my data if organizations compensate me with discounts and incentives. I would even choose to give my business to organizations who value my data more and treat it with respect. Instead of a Business to Customer relationship, we could have a Customer to Customer relationship.

There are people out there who say that trusting any organization with our data is not very wise. Organizations will not store it safely and will misuse it. However, how many of us share our lives on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Who “Checks in” to locations on social media? How many pictures of your children do you share on social media?  How many organizations have you given access to your credit card details?  If you have any social media accounts, within a couple of minutes, I should be able to find out: Where you work; How much you earn (roughly); Where you like to go on holidays; Where you went to school; What are your interests; How many times you checked into Starbucks, etc…

So, let us have a proper conversation about personal data and how it can help governments and organizations and how valuable it could be.

Sogeti Labs


SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.

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  1. Erik March 25, 2015 Reply

    Yes! There are many initiatives trying to do just this: to find ways to put people back in control of their data AND find ways to monetize the data available. It also touches on the topic of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) as advocated by a.o. Doc Searls: http://www.telco2research.com/articles/VR_VRM-why-how-telcos-leading-role-doc-searls_Full

    • John April 13, 2015 Reply

      Hi Erik,

      The video at this link it excellent. It does a really good job at explaining how we could share and use our personal data.

      However, Doc Searls does not talk about how valuable personal data is and suggests that Telco’s could charge you for saving and sharing it responsibly. With the proper trust in place, I think that this trusted provider could, instead of charging, give discounts and benefits for storing your information with them.

      It would be fantastic to have a central location to store my data. Imagine if I didn’t have to redirect all my mail and bills if I moved house!

  2. Mike Pumper March 25, 2015 Reply

    Excellent article, John!

    I think we’re starting to see a trend that is doing exactly what you are describing. The Internet of Things is predicted to hit somewhere around 25 billion sensors by 2020, each collecting data. The best clusters of these will be designed to push data into big data repositories. That data could give insights into hugely powerful things – traffic patterns, stock trackers, regional purchasing trends, and so forth. Companies that start collecting and housing data in the right way will own something incredibly valuable in the coming years.

    • John April 13, 2015 Reply

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, I didn’t get to address the data which will be generated by IoT.

      Every time I walk past a shop, travel by bus, walk into an Accident and Emergency dept, etc… my data is left behind. If there is no way for us to take responsibility for it, it will be used irresponsibly.

      On the other hand, this is valuable info and if I had a trusted way to share this it, I would. Especially if it makes my life easier, improves government, better services, etc…