Opinion  

Is this the end of the shadow data economy?

Michael James

Michael James

Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the web, is now working on a product called Solid with the aim of giving consumers full control over their data.

On the face of it, this would allow control and security; the consumer would know who has access to their data.

Depending on how this works it could physically be the single source of consumer data or just a data delivery mechanism and record-keeping store to help the consumer update or set up new products that they sign up to.

If that means signing up to complex financial services products becomes less painful for the consumer then that is a big plus all round, isn’t it?

However, there is a whole shadow data economy that exists where consumers' data travels far and wide, and is used, sold and exchanged by many companies.

Even the consumers themselves, on a daily basis, exchange data in return for services - afterall, Google and Facebook do not survive on fees.

So if, all of a sudden, the consumer is put in full control of their data and really see how and where it is used, will this put an end to the shadow and not-so-shadowy data economy?

Or will it monetise it to the extent that we will get paid for its use and have to pay for everything else we currently perceive as ‘free’?

From the perspective of the financial services institution, it does mean I could forget 'single customer view', or at least change it to single customer ID view.

IT architecture functions everywhere would breathe a sigh of relief as it would probably reduce the annual change budget of every banking, wealth and insurance provider in the UK.

The positives go further than this: my documents, my statements, correspondence and transaction history no longer stored locally could all be lumped together as “personal data” and stored in Solid PODs.

The maintenance, security and privacy of all this data would now be the consumer’s problem.

This is not new. Back in 2014 we were actively talking about digital passports, or GOV.UK Verify as they were called, allowing us to be more easily verified, thereby allowing consumers access to multiple pension pots in one place through the pensions dashboard.

We also have financial consolidator services like ‘All My Plans’ that receive all my incoming post and digitise it, keep it safe and tell me what’s going on, on a monthly basis – and in the unfortunate position of anyone going under the big data bus, the service provides a single place to access all my data for my dependants to view.

Use of consumer data is already getting tighter and, as a result of GDPR, the data we store against customers is now heavily restricted.