OneTrust_Square Banner_300x250_DD_ROS_01_19

By Jennifer L. Saunders
Questions ranging from concerns over the use of personal information in behavioral advertising to who should own the wealth of data that "lives" on sites and in caches across the Web have inventors, researchers, privacy experts and others wondering what the Internet landscape will look like in the future. The debate is in full swing as to whether the answer lies in more regulation or personal control to manage all the data that is stored online about everything from our health and education to our purchases and preferences. Others, meanwhile, suggest the right choice is simply to make all that information go away.

For those who propose a user-centric model of data banking aimed at commoditizing the wealth of information we put "out there" via social networking sites, online financial transactions, Web searches and even digitized municipal and educational records, the concept focuses on users retaining ownership and control of their online information.

"There's a fundamental problem with the way the Internet works now," Invention Arts Chief Scientist and Co-Founder Marc Davis told Inside 1to1: Privacy, explaining that when it comes to viable business models, companies and marketers must guess what people want in terms of targeted advertising. "It's a fairly inefficient system."

For example, targeted advertising on some social networking sites has raised concerns among privacy advocates and users alike and even has marketers questioning when use of information gathered online crosses the line. A report in The New York Times suggests that many advertisers who use "self-service system" advertising gather information from social networking platforms in an attempt to make their ads appear relevant to users.

"When it works, it's amazingly impactful, but when it doesn't work, it's not only creepy but off-putting," Tim Hanlon, whose advisory firm focuses on marketing innovations, told The New York Times. "What a marketer might think is endearing, by knowing a little bit about you, actually crosses the line pretty easily."

Instead, Invention Arts is exploring what Davis described as its "data banking and exchange" model for addressing information management and a viable business model for the Web.

"If user data is the currency of the information economy, then where are the banks?" Invention Arts asks, predicting that within the next 10 years, data transactions will have "massive new value" as user comprehension of how, when and where their data is used changes.

"Given regulatory and societal pressures, the ownership and control of user data is placed in our hands. We gain control of what we make and do online and in the world," Invention Arts suggests. "New legal and technical structures change the terms of service for the mobile ecosystem bringing about a range of new value creation and services based on the ownership, control, aggregation, and exchange of personal data (e.g., searches, interests, location, communications, social media, transactions, health data, etc.) by users and trusted intermediaries."

Pointing out that while privacy concerns are absolutely valid, Davis cautions that some regulations have the potential for limiting the way the Internet functions. Instead, he said, the focus should be user-centric, providing citizens with protection from damage by giving them the control over how much of their data they share and with whom.

"There's a massive exploitation and reappropriation of assets online," he said, suggesting that data banking "solves all sorts of problems" by increasing the economic viability of the Internet while giving users control over their own information by moving from a privacy model to a property model.

While questions abound regarding just how the economics of commoditizing online data would work, many individuals and organizations are focused on ensuring that individuals retain ultimate control of their data.

Gordon Bell, who co-authored Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything with fellow Microsoft researcher Jim Gemmell, advocates "life logging--recording everything on your hard drive or cloud store...Never delete!" But, he stresses, that information needs to be personally controlled.

"Data about us, held by institutions; e.g., health, finances should be freely available to us," he told Inside 1to1: Privacy. "For example, I resent having to pay to get my credit report! These guys are already making money from data they have collected about me."

To save or shred in an online world
Speaking at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C., on April 21, Prof. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, discussed a different aspect to online models based on users assigning value to personal data as a commodity. Mayer-Schönberger raised concerns that such a model would, in effect, mean more surveillance being built into networking systems if users are banking their data and assigning value to the various information they have online.

As he noted in an April interview with the IAPP, "Whoever in the future will control large swaths of our digital memory (Flickr? YouTube? Google?) will be able to change history."

Meanwhile, the Keeping Found Things Found (KFTF) project, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, focuses on another aspect of the data we create and gather: keeping information that we've found available when we want to access it later.

"Information found does us little good if we misplace it or forget to use it," KFTF's Web site notes. "And just as we must maintain a house or a car, we need to maintain our information--backing it up, archiving or deleting old information, updating information that is no longer accurate. In our digital world, advances in technologies of search and storage have far outpaced balancing advances in tools and techniques that help us to manage and make sense of our information."

When it comes to the ways personal information is stored, mined and used, the future of data management remains to be seen. But, as Amy Manus suggests in a recent report featured in ClickZ, personal choices regarding the sharing of sensitive information will continue to come into play regardless of the regulatory or privacy frameworks in place.

"Behavioral targeting is often scrutinized by consumers and government legislation for the tracking of personally unidentifiable information, currently taking place to better target advertising to the right user at the right time," she writes. "However, these same consumers are also offering up their own personal information all around the Web for marketers to create their digital footprint by openly displaying who they are, what they do, their shopping habits, preferences, friends, etc. If there is such a concern over privacy, then consumers need to be their own personal advocates."

To share or not to share? The difference between "life-logging" and "life-blogging"

Anyone who has read or even heard about Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything is probably well aware that its focus is about the importance of recording what we do--creating a digital memory to supplement and enhance our human powers of remembrance. In their acclaimed book, Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell share their experiences with their "MyLifeBits" project at Microsoft in support of a practice they call "life-logging." However, these proponents of recording everything in an electronic realm are quick to point out that saving memories and sharing them are two very different things.

In essence, as Gemmell and Bell explored in their book and explained in recent communications with Inside 1to1: Privacy, "life-logging" requires privacy and control.

Bell explained that their work has shown that "e-memory is the ground truth" while "bio-memory contains meta-data and URLs to our e-Memories." Life-logging is the process of recording all of that information, whether on computer hard drives or in cloud storage, and keeping it personally controlled, he told Inside 1to1: Privacy. "Don't expose yourself to unnecessary risk."

The benefit of preserving memories in a digital format, he asserted, "manifests itself in work, health, learning, life and immortality."

But, Bell said, "We say no to blogging--where you spill your guts from wherever, whatever mental or physical state you are in."

In Total Recall, the authors suggest that those companies that can build trusted "Swiss data banks" for such information "will reap big rewards." And, looking to the future, the book suggests, "the younger generation ought to eventually see their casual approach to privacy as a mistake and scale back their public disclosures."

"We continue to be life-loggers not life-bloggers," Gemmell told Inside 1to1: Privacy, referring to an explanation on the Total Recall Web site where he explores the difference between the two.

"Logging my life into a private, secure e-memory sounds like a great idea to me. In contrast, I have absolutely no interest in sharing the complete details of my life with the world in a blog," Gemmell wrote. "I want to share a few of my e-memories with some of my friends and family, and even fewer memories with the world. My blogging will be extremely selective."

E-memory, Gemmell said, does not function like human memory, "but in terms of privacy and ownership, it deserves similar treatment. My hope is that society and law will come to recognize it as such. There is attorney-client privilege, and surely my e-memory deserves at least as much privilege."



If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Talk privacy and network with local members at IAPP KnowledgeNet Chapter meetings, taking place worldwide.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

The Privacy Core™ Library Has Evolved

Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials just expanded to include seven new units for marketers. Keep your data safe and your staff in the know!

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Let’s Get You DPO Ready

There’s no better time to train than right now! We have all the resources you need to meet the challenges of the GDPR.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.


The IAPP’S CIPP/E and CIPM are the ANSI/ISO-accredited, industry-recognized combination for DPO readiness. Learn more today.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Are You Ready for the GDPR?

Check out the IAPP's EU Data Protection Reform page for all the tools and resources you need.

IAPP-OneTrust PIA Platform

New U.S. Government Agency privacy impact assessments - free to IAPP members!

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

More Resources »

Europe Data Protection Intensive 2017

The Intensive is sold out! But cancellations do happen—so hurry and get on the wait list in case more seats become available.

Global Privacy Summit 2017

The world’s premier privacy conference returns with the sharpest minds, unparalleled programs and preeminent networking opportunities.

Canada Privacy Symposium 2017

The Symposium returns to Toronto this spring and registration has opened! Take advantage of Early Bird rates and join your fellow privacy pros for another stellar program.

The Privacy Bar Section Forum 2017

The Privacy Bar Section Forum returns to Washington, DC April 21, delivering renowned keynote speakers and a distinguished panel of legal and privacy experts.

Asia Privacy Forum 2017

The Forum returns to Singapore for exclusive networking and intensive education on data protection trends and challenges in the Asia Pacific region. Call for Speakers open!

Privacy. Security. Risk. 2017

This year, we're bringing P.S.R. to San Diego. The Call for Speakers is now open. Submit today and be a part of something big! Submission deadline: February 26.

Europe Data Protection Congress 2017

European policy debate, multi-level strategic thinking and thought-provoking discussion. The Call for Speakers is open until March 19.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»