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What would our world be like if all our data was integrated?

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There’s a movement to use data to track and trace every human on Earth. It’s an inexorable movement which citizens are allowing as they sleepwalk into George Orwell’s vision of 1984. The Ministry of Data brings together every bit and byte of your life, and monitors your activities.

China has been leading this march towards government monitoring, as illustrated by their social credit system, but people would claim other countries are doing the same. The India Stack, which covers everything from digital identity to payments, is a great way for the Indian government to see the movements of its people. Tapping into data from Facebook, Amazon and Google gives the NSA a great way to see how people in America and Europe are behaving.

Do we really want our lives digitally tracked and traced in real-time by all governments?

It’s an interesting question as, if you have nothing to hide, what does it matter? Do you have anything to hide? Are you bothered that a government could see your cryptocurrency usage? Can you retract that insult you just sent on social, which looked like trolling? Are you concerned your authorities know what porn you access?

You get the idea.

Some believe we have sleepwalked into monitoring unlimited. They are fighting back. They want the web to be decentralised, compartmentalised, partitioned, kuberneticked into containers owned by us. It’s called ownership. Who owns my data? Who should own my data? Surely, I should own my data? And yet my data is owned by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Ping An, Yandex and all the other big tech giants today.

They’ve got my data and my digital footprint habits. If they sell that data to third parties or share that data with government entities, I have no control. There’s the rub.

Tim Berners-Lee, who some say fathered the worldwide web, is retaliating against this. Tim says these big tech giants are fuelled by vast troves of data to become surveillance platforms and gatekeepers of innovation.

The answer, according to Tim, is pods?

“Pods,” personal online data stores, are a key technical ingredient to achieve that goal. The idea is that each person could control his or her own data — websites visited, credit card purchases, workout routines, music streamed — in an individual data safe, typically a sliver of server space.

But this would change everything. After all, the beauty of getting stuff for free is that you are the product. The free services from Google and Facebook are only free as long as you allow them to mine your data, sell it to third parties, leverage it for advertising and keep it for correlations and analytics. You are the product. Take that away and all of these free things will start costing you money. The dynamics will change. Or do they?

Maybe you end up with a data broker. An intermediary who acts on your behalf to manage, share and use your data, based upon your data preferences and needs. The thing is that a data intermediary would need to be licensed and trusted. So, how does a complany look like that is licensed and trusted with data? Sounds awfully like a bank if you ask me. A bank is an intermediary that is licensed and trusted to transact money. Why shouldn’t that or a similar organisation be the intermediary that is licensed and trusted to transact data? It does not mean that you trust the organisation to act in your best interests, but it does mean that you trust the organisation to manage your data in the same way as they manage your money.

Pods, decentralisation, data brokerage. A whole new market is emerging and it’s an important one. After all, who wants to live with Big Brother?

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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