Will we ever really own our personal data?

At NEXT last week I listened to the for me most compelling panel on the international stage – “The personal data economy and what it all means”.

I went there because I saw a chance to finally enjoy the typical German whining about privacy and data protection live. To listen to the ones that want their data online protected but then check in as much as possible on Foursquare and other location based services in order to earn points in that game, at the same time disclosing where they are at that very point, and where they have been. Paradox? Yes. But that’s how it is.

However, I was wrong, no whining about data protection, but actually putting thoughts forward that got me thinking – all week, actually, which is kind of unusual.

The ones who  got me thinking, were Fabio Sergio and Johan Stael von Holstein.

Why?

Johan and Fabio listening to the other speakers on the panel

Fabio was generally all positive about today’s sharing possibilities, that i.e. instead of paper copies of pictures one can now share these globally on the private blog or in other places with loads of people. Of course it would be good to give people control about their data, to make them aware of what their data is being used for etc. in order to create the necessary trusted environment, so that people share more.  (Update: His speech here!)

I would agree with Fabio, I also appreciate all services online where you can keep in touch with people far away – LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing and all other networks and services where you can connect changed the world and the way of doing business and keeping friendships alive. They also created more chances to get to know new people all around the globe, and I am not talking online dating here, although that is included.

Now, the thing that always bothered me about these services, despite its definite advantages, is that your rights for the content once uploaded to your account are limited. I.e. Youtube does not let you take any videos away (experienced that last week when uploading the wrong one, only solution was to make it private), and Facebook has the rights on your pictures. Which is one of the reasons of why I joined Facebook as late as in February 2010.

However, did I have a choice to avoid Facebook? Nope, all friends, colleagues, former colleagues, family and even business friends are there. So it there was a definite advantage in joining Facebook, and I really enjoy using it, but somehow it bogs me that in theory and practically Facebook can do with my stuff whatever they want. Plus I get “personalised” ads that are not the least interesting to me.

Johan had these thoughts (and a lot more), too, and he offers a solution to this dilemma. With MyCube.com he wants to start a new community where you have control over your data and content, where you, apart from many other things, as far as I could judge it by looking at the closed beta version, can buy and sell content like pictures etc. to other community members. MyCube even offers an internal currency, cubes, for that. (Update: his speech here)

The reason of founding MyCube was Johan’s desire to control his data, that he even can monetise his content instead of other platforms doing it without his knowledge and him getting no revenue whatsoever. Plus he only wants recommendations (and ads?) based on his interests, from his friends within a community he trusts. Because “he is not a bloody consumer” as he put it, he knows what he wants and why and refuses to look or even react to ads that would potentially fit his needs, but that he isn’t interested in. (Footnote: I object on the consumer part, every one of us is a consumer in some way, whether we like it or not, even Johan. It is a matter of definition of what a consumer actually is.)

Good thinking!

However, will it not be damn hard to convert the many million Facebook users to MyCube users? I am signed up for the beta version and I intend to follow MyCube’s development, but I am not that sure that my friends will sign up for it, once I will be able to invite them. To change the habits of people is quite a challenge, to put it mildly. Plus, not all of us are as strong individuals like Johan that share the same needs, lots of people just don’t (want to) bother what happens to their data, they don’t even think that what they post could be worth anything. That is the real challenge of MyCube, changing the mindset of people in order to make it a success.

A question I asked Johan when taking part in the interview Joe Morgan did with him was “Who guarantees me that you won’t be doing the same with our data like the others?” together with “How will you make money?”. The answer was that we will learn that on the official launch date in June…

When signing up to the beta version now, I did not find any button to delete my profile again, not that I wanted to, but it is always good to find such a thing when one is told that one has full control over ones data…  Therefore I hope this is just a temporary flaw and that a delete-button will be added in the open beta or alpha version.

However, that discovery did not entirely convince me that I will have any more control over my data and what I post in MyCube than in any other social network or community. Let alone the fact that everything you post somewhere online can potentially end up anywhere. And a case in my circle of friends shows that if someone wants to get to your data, they will do it.

There is no water tight security online, and we all are aware of that, even though we refuse to admit that. And therefore we will never own anything that we put up on the net completely. There will always be risks that someone just takes your stuff, if you lucky, you find out and if you are even more lucky, you will be able to do something about it. Depending on how much it matters to you.

Therefore I will also in future, no matter where and on which portal, only post details that I would tell anyone. And since I am an open-minded person, there is already a lot to find.

To get back to the panel with Fabio and Johan – I enjoyed listening to these totally controversial opinions on the same stage! And I will definitely follow with interest MyCube’s development.  Should you already be there and wonder how to test it, search for me, connect, and then we maybe can wade this new space together.

P.S.: Who else thought that there is a bit of a similarity in looks between these two? No offense to anyone of them, honest! However, what they do have in common (whether they or anybody else likes it or not!) is that they are both extremely good at selling their ideas and that they are pretty clever.

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One thought on “Will we ever really own our personal data?

  1. Pingback: NEXT11: (My) Tiny Little Blogging Crowd (Work in Progress) >> 50hz - Werkstatt für Netzkommunikation

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