Author: Laura Phillips

A Market for Personal Data

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A Market for Personal Data techonology imagesReports produced by the World Economic Forum in 2011 and 2013 suggest that users around the globe send over 45 billion e-mails, 10 billion text messages and submit 95 million Tweets in an average day.

In fact, trillions of our transactions and behaviours are being recorded each day via billions of connected devices and sensors. Data is collected on who we are, who we know, what we like and dislike, where we are, have been and plan to go. What’s more, the volume of this data is only set to grow.

The collection, management and sharing of this data in the digital era by firms, governments and individuals is said to generate new opportunities for economic and societal value creation. Yet, up until now at least, it is questionable whether a market for this personal data truly exists.

Of course, there are many examples of business models in which firms enabled by digital technologies collect, transform and monetise elements of our personal data. Fitbit, for example, allows us to record and monitor our physical activity as part of a health and wellness regime, in the process collecting contextual information about calories expended and food consumed. This allows Fitbit to create new business models, selling this information to insurance companies to help them better understand the actual and potential behaviour of their customers and thus better calculate risks.

These business models are an example of how parties, whether individuals, firms or governments, collect columns of data on elements of our lived lives in silos. As a result, the personal data collected, managed and shared by Fitbit, for example, represents only a subset of the totality of personal data that is out there in the ether. The totality is simply an externality of commercial activity in existing markets. This is why we contest whether a market for personal data exists at present.

In this respect, the HAT aims to be a market maker. By developing a platform for securely storing the totality of data and providing a safe place in which to trade it, we aim to generate opportunities for new business models. With greater visibility of the totality, it becomes possible to form links and relationships between the columns of data, connecting previously separate elements of data on our lived lives. For example, if we can see the rows that cut across columns of personal data from Fitbit, banks, email, social media, Google searches, Tesco shopping carts, home sensors etc we gain a much richer picture of the context of lived lives and the way in which we experience and use products and services.

We believe that the HAT, as a platform to kickstart the personal data economy, can stimulate new business models. According to Gartner, businesses spend over $20 billion a year on CRM (customer relationship management) to manage interactions with customers, $1 billion of which is set to be spent on social CRM to get closer to customers and, by doing so, facilitate increased revenue, cost reduction and efficiencies. The supply chain currently ends at the high street; companies have no visibility of consumption.

By giving firms visibility of consumption and experience practices, the HAT holds unprecedented potential for companies to design experiences that propose greater value in return for customers’ time, attention, endorsement and data. Ultimately therefore, the HAT hopes to generate greater opportunity for economic and societal value creation through a market for personal meta data.