100 European startups that manage personal data

By: Nicolas Rose

“Data is the New Oil!” was announced in 2006. Today, the “data economy” is an important market for collection, extraction, refining and monetization. While only a defined quantity of oil exists, data constantly generates more data due to the exponential growth of interactions and digital communications. A recent IBM study confirms this: 90% of the available data has been produced in the past two years.

Amongst the different types of data (business data, those derived from sensors, etc.), personal data includes all those that directly concern an individual; they cover multiple dimensions such as: identity, origin, physical or mental characteristics, health, genetic data, family, activities and travel, emails and online purchases, social interactions, assets, its connections, etc. In short, a kind of virtual digital representation of the individual.

For the past twenty years, the main websites, social networks, major digital media, e-merchants, etc. can follow each user during his online journey, via cookies (that is to say files deposited by a website on a computer), via a unique identifier or an IP address. Mobile phones, activity bracelets and soon personal assistants at home complete this data collection in the physical world.

The giants Facebook or Google offer free online services and a very profitable business model through the collection of personal data, compiled and crossed to be used for targeted marketing and advertising campaigns sold to advertisers. The personal data thus collected allows anonymous profiling and in some cases, to reveal the person’s identity. Internet users then lose, sometimes without even knowing it (except if you decide to read the hundreds of pages of terms of service), the control of their personal data.

At the beginning of 2018 Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, had just acknowledged that large technology companies (he does not quote his own) use technology to monitor users and that governments do the same for citizens. Taking the initiative of remedying to this situation, he presents two technologies, data encryption and cryptocurrency, as means of “rendering the power back to the individuals”.

Given the quick pace of technological changes and its fast-growing uses, we believe that it is neither a question of prohibiting the collection of data by companies, nor of encouraging the user to systematically monetize his data. In the future, free online services monetizing personal data may become worthwhile. But until then, startups offer innovative products that give everyone the control of their own data (management tools and monetization) and diversify their uses by ensuring its consent (digital identity tool). They combine the easy to use for mass adoption (such as the personal cloud) with a secure encryption for controlled and more responsible use (secure communication tools, Blockchain tools).

2018, a milestone year for the protection of personal data

As of May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be applicable in all EU Member States and, by extension, to all companies, including those outside Europe, that process data from EU citizens. According to the legislator, any natural person can therefore take control of his personal data.

Amongst the main measures of the GDPR are the following obligations:

  • Include the protection of personal data from the design of a product or service (privacy by design) collection or protection,
  • Keep a record of all personal data processing,
  • Obtain the informed consent of each user for the processing of their data,
  • Grant the user a “right to be forgotten” (ie if the user asks for it, his data must be totally erased)
  • Add a data portability, so that everyone can receive from any operator or platform all of his personal data in his possession in order to compete or monetize his profile,
  • Notify users of any violations of the stored data and any incident concerning them.

Although it is too early to know the real impact of this new regulation, it is likely that this will lead to a large-scale awareness by European Internet users concerning how their data is used. Users will want to control it better and will see new personalized products and services appear.

From centralization to decentralization of personal data

For the user, the storage of his personal data by companies has two disadvantages:

  • Any change request must be repeated with each company
  • Centralization favors the risks of computer attacks (those targeting Yahoo, Equifax, Target, Home Depot, Sony, … have had costly economic consequences) and the spread of personal data in the Dark Web.

These disadvantages can be addressed by decentralizing the storage of personal data, managed directly by the user and disseminated with his consent. Technical solutions such as cryptocurrency or private blockchain are emerging technologies that could provide a decentralized database architecture.

100 European startups to regain control of their data

It is in a favorable legal context in Europe and a collective awareness around personal data that we have identified 100 top performing European startups that provide concrete and original solutions for easy, efficient and secure personal data management.

Amongst the startups that manage personal data for individuals, by category:

  • Authentication & identification: NetToken Client in B2C and BlockChainHelix in B2B
  • Secure communications: Twinlife or Telegram chats; the mails of ProtonMail or Mailfence or Privately to help children master the social networks;
  • Management of personal data: Digi.me and for monetizing data : People.io or Citizen Me
  • Management of the digital identity: Jolocom or Uport;
  • Personal cloud: CozyCloud or Lima;
  • Privacy-friendly internet search: Qwant or Lilo;
  • Applications using Blockchain: BlockCerts or YobiCash.

For companies, innovative services allow them to develop personal data management while respecting the GDPR such as Magush, WireWheel or BMI;

Here is a mapping of these 100 startups on a very buoyant market that we follow closely at XAnge !