GDPR’s mandate calls for innovative technology to transform the market.


GDPR’s mandate calls for innovative technology to transform the market.

The rule of thumb is that if you want to be transformative and reap the benefits of that transformation, you must focus on creating a new market with innovation where none existed before e.g. Amazon, Google, Facebook. But what happens when a market “vision” is created for you without the technical innovation to make it accessible?

In my opinion, with the first recital of GDPR “The protection of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data is a fundamental right,” a brand-new market has been envisioned. The EU wants to become a market that is person-centric rather than brand/retailer-centric. In this new market, the focus shifts to the power of my data and my control over that data. It truly is a market of Me.

Before pointing to the needed technical innovation to enable GDPR to be truly transformative, let’s take a trip back in time to see what has transformed markets in the past:

Roughly 30 years ago we ushered in the Internet. For the first time the world was truly connected. The invention of the browser and its user interface (hyperlinks) simplified navigation so you could click your way around the world. There was no defined business model other than for sharing data.

That all changed in 1994 with the arrival of Netscape and SSL which added the ability to sell physical goods securely on the Internet. The consumer value proposition was convenience, money in exchange for physical goods. Netscape was the initial leader who created the innovation (remember those e-commerce servers?), but it was Amazon that transformed the market by seeing the opportunity to move away from the physical store and create a digital store front.

The second market transformation occurred a few years later in 1998. This time a technology innovation was tied into the creation of a market ripe for transformation (Advertising) by a single company, Google. The simple search box (user interface) simplified the underlying complexity of searching the web. The transformative event tied that user interface to advertising-supported search. The consumer value proposition was free services in exchange for business defined data use.

A third market transformation occurred in 2004 when Facebook created an innovative user interface to share your social network. Just as search told Google more about you, your social network told Facebook even more about you. This transformed the data into a form of digital currency that transformed businesses into ecosystems.

All these transformations developed with minimal input from the consumer and little understanding of the data collection, flow and use that powers these massive economic engines. The current Internet business marketplace has become one-sided where consumers are viewed as users, not customers and have no ability to negotiate the value of their data. Consumers are now beginning to realize the inequity of the relationship.

In April 2016, the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as a sustainable solution to rebalance the scales, returning privacy back to the consumer. It starts with Recital (1):

“The protection of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data is a fundamental right.”

In May 2018, the GDPR begins imposing significant fines on global businesses who do not comply with new data consent standards. This single regulatory act, instead of a new technological advancement, is the driving force behind the transformation to a consumer-centric marketplace. To innovate in a market that is person-centric versus brand/retailer-centric, we must think differently if we want to maintain and grow the digital ecosystem.

The above examples reveal that all the previous sustainable market transformations relied on a common innovation – the user interface. E-commerce, search and message board technologies all existed, but the market transformations were made possible by making the complex simple and easy to use.

A new innovative user interface is needed to give consumers the ability to provide trust-based consent and negotiate the value of their data in real time. It must be simple enough to convert their preferences and choices into something that the Internet understands to seamlessly integrate into vast digital market ecosystems.

Essentially, with such a user interface, consumers would become a retailer of their own data to be shared with the businesses they trust. It would shift the current one-sided model, where consumers have no choice in how their data is used, to a market where their ability to choose gives them the real-time negotiating power they experience in the physical world — based upon the value of their data. It transforms the digital marketplace into a more human marketplace with greater opportunities for everyone.

Now comes the hard part. Where are the tools to upgrade the Internet and enable this transformation?

Posted in: GDPR, Privacy, Privacy by Design

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