WDYT? 6/19: A PayPal for your personal data?

Christian Heise
Jun 24 · 3 min read

In the time of the great privacy awakening, the debate around personal data, digital rights and how we protect these has gone ablaze again. Just recently, Europe marked the one year anniversary of the GDPR: a legislation designed to provide EU citizens with better control over their personal data by having businesses implement measures in place to protect privacy rights.

In today’s digital world, everything revolves around data. Social media, for one, is a gold mine packed with personal information, most of which – public. But as the world struggles to catch up with modern technology, new advancements are coming into power. MyData is a framework, coined the ‘human-centered approach for personal data management and processing’. At its center stands the mindset that individuals and their personal data are not passive targets but rather, empowered actors. While everyone should have a right of privacy to their personal information, the latter should not just exist passively: with the proper measures in place, it can be transformed into an important resource to offer new services to improve the quality of life, healthcare, economic growth and more – so the promise.

But is data about me, my behaviour or my actions my data?

So far, it still depends. The EU identifies personal data as “any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.” However, the MyData model proposes is that individuals should retain absolute control of their private data but also have the opportunity to leverage it to further their own interests, as well as help society, grow and thrive.

So why not having a PayPal for my data?

In the future, services around this concept may facilitate a transactional use of personal data, where individuals can choose to pay for services or products with their information, creating a mutually beneficial solution for both parties. Visiting a publisher with a paywall in place, for instance, may prompt the individual to pay with their personal data (e.g. a qualified email for a 30-day period).

The framework would allow a decentralized management of personal data and the increased usability of data also ensures that sensitive information is accurate, will be handled with care and transparency. Users would be able to see all the time who is using their data when and why. They would be able to cut and maybe even disallow usage. Like at PayPal where you always can see who charged you for what in near real time. A shared infrastructure would allow companies to comply with tightening data protection regulations like GDPR while empowering individuals to make use of their personal data in a transparent, mutually beneficial manner. Data could be even handled encrypted and usage restricted to for the pre negotiated reasons, scope and timeframe (f.e. via your own wallet on your personal device).

In an era where digital information is virtually impossible to ignore and almost as difficult to control, it provides consumers and businesses with an agile approach to handling and making use of this information: a solution that answers industry needs in a way that maintains digital human rights. Wdyt?

Christian Heise

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Christian is a manager, activist, author, lecturer and curator. https://christianhei.se