Data transparency: Where are we now and where might we be going?

Late last year I was in Barcelona working with Telefónica Alpha. During my time there I was fortunate to run a session at Data Transparency Lab’s annual conference (see bottom of blog for video). I was also asked a few questions at the conclusion of my session. Here’s the video and below is a written transcript of the content.

How would you define Transparency?

I think transparency’s role in the digital economy of today is multifaceted but primarily it’s about exhibiting your trustworthiness as a brand. And that’s not something that we do particularly well now and given that trust is at an all-time measurable low, it really makes sense for transparency to become part of our culture our workflows, our practices, our products and services and importantly have business models.

What are the last trends related to Data Transparency?

There’s lots happening in the market today. There are regulatory drivers. There are technological drivers. There are new standards that are emerging. In fact, there’s an entire new market called PIMS. Not the drink (Pimm’s), I was disappointed when I first heard out. PIMS, Personal Information Management Services. What I believe the megatrend is, the trend that is the result of these converging trends that I’ve mentioned, something along the lines of genuine human centricity, where people go from being, not an equal actor in these ecosystems, to be in the centre of their very own personal data ecosystem. And there’s a regulatory environment that’s going to support that there’s new technological approaches. There are new design principles and practices that are going to enable that, but it’s still going to take a little bit of time where early days.

Do companies really care about data transparency? And users?

It’s tough to say explicitly whether all companies do or don’t care about data transparency. I think most people start their day from a pretty good place and so to assume that everyone’s bad an evil and trying to do the wrong thing by the people that they serve as customers is probably not the right way to go, but business models, organizational practices and a variety of other factors are holding us back. What we need to do is flip the model on its head. We need to start with the human beings that we intend to serve. We need to start with the value that we intend to create for those people and we need to architect our organizational cultures, our organizational models around that human centred view.

What do you think could be the most significant challenges and developments in the field of personal data transparency online?

I think the biggest challenge that we face is human behaviour. Ask me any problem that’s the answer, right? In order for us to progress beyond where we are today. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight I think we need tiny increments of value, not just for people, but for organizations too. It has to make sense to the entire ecosystem, the entire landscape. And so, I think what we really need to focus on is, what is that next step? And let’s make it, make it quickly and then figure out what comes next after that.

I think what they come down to is something like this: if an individual sits at the centre of the very own personal data ecosystem and they have the tools, they operate in the environment in which their data is utilized seamlessly and effectively to create life outcomes, stuff that they really care about. What I believe we’re going to see over a period of time is this transition away from me, where I am the sole focus, to an environment in which technology augments our capabilities so that we can start focusing on collective good, collective well-being and frankly, to be really explicit, stop destroying the planet that we call our home.

Which are your current projects involving data privacy and transparency?

At Greater than X we have an interesting approach to the market. We value the privacy of our clients. We deeply value the agency of the people that they represent as customers. We don’t really go to market and talk too much about what we do. So rather than being really explicit, let me talk about it at a high level. I think what we’re seeing is a trend, in terms of the projects that we are engaged in commercially right now, is a transition away from an environment, organizationally, that is purely self-serving, to an environment in which human value and collective human value, societal value, is something that an organization is striving and competitively and strategically working towards. And for me, that is not just exciting to participate in, it’s really exciting to be a part of creating.

Note: Times change… I’m about to contradict (in writing) what I said in the video (verbally). We’ve begun to change this very recently as a result of an increased demand for practical case studies in this space. Head here for more.

What do you think of the data transparency lab?

The Data Transparency Lab and other similar organizations play a pivotal role in the emerging ecosystem. Why? Because right now, far too few people are even thinking about this. And it’s the Data Transparency Lab, together with other organizations, they can’t do it by themselves, but it’s their responsibility to get people to stand up and say “Oh wow, I didn’t know this was going on, but this is really important, this is really valuable. I’m going to get behind this and I’m going to start acting in a way that is inherently transparent, inherently trustworthy and inherently human centric”. So, the Data Transparency Lab, they have a really important role to play.

I think that what we’ve witnessed over the last few years is the role of designers or the design business function, start becoming far more pivotal to an organization’s success. The business value of design has never been so clear. And I actually think designers are going to have to take a lot of this stuff onto their shoulders. They’re going to have to work collaboratively with legal, with business, with strategy, with technology, with engineering, etc. to focus on the human beings that they serve. It has to start with human centred design. Only through that, can we create real mutual value through data transparency, privacy, security and value.

Here’s that session I mention above :)

A massive thank you as always for tuning in. Hopefully you can take something away from each of these videos.

Oh… A little P.S. action. If you watched the second video, heard about our playbook and typed the domain into a browser, you’re probably thinking I’m absolutely full it as you’d have been met directly with this 404…

This isn’t preferential design (I’ve highlighted it deliberately in the screen shot). You actually have three options available. The far left will take you to the new domain for the playbook. You can also access the playbook directly here.

Adiós for now.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nathan Kinch

Nathan Kinch

A confluence of Happy Gilmore, Conor McGregor and the Dalai Lama.