How to save the world by selling your personal data.

How to save the world by selling your personal data.

I am guilty. Every day, I help companies improve their customer experiences.

Every day, I promote automation over people. It’s better and the results prove it.

  • Customer satisfaction goes up.
  • Operational costs go down.
  • Jobs disappear.

And I am not alone.

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We now have a computer that not only can win Jeopardy, but can diagnose cancer better than doctors and make a better rib sauce than a Michelin starred chef.
From robots that do the work of 400 people in the docks of Liverpool to cutting paperwork in Penzance, technology is removing jobs.
And everywhere this is happening we are making progress.

It’s good.

This trend is not going to change, and nor should it. My guilt doesn’t change the fact that I believe in the progress technology provides. But without a solution to the side effect – things get dark.

What happens when there is mass unemployment? Without a purpose, with time on their hands and hunger in their bellies, humans do what humans do. They turn on each other. From disillusioned communities where the figures clearly show the link between unemployment and crime to the catastrophic global event in the middle of the 20th Century, the evidence is there.

So, Why is employment important? Simply because people trade time.

Everyone wants to retire early, play more golf or work 3 days a week – to do that, they will need to make trades. There are only 2 things people can trade – their time or their body. Employment is the trade of their time for money and Prostitution is the trade of their body for money, and even that could be considered a trade of time.

Of course, people have a long and rich history or trading everything from pearls to barley – but all of these “things” constitute a use of their time and their body.
As technology is replacing brains with machine intelligence and craft with 3D printing, wherever you look for other forms of employment, whether that’s returning to farming or the arts and craft movement, all of the jobs will be automated. Your time, is no longer tradable. The impact of this is the largest mass employment the world has ever seen.

So, what else can you trade? Your body or your data. In Spain, we’ve already seen the rise in prostitution caused by the financial crises. Surely these women should have the opportunity to be selling their data, rather than their bodies? The question is – what’s stopping them? Data Privacy laws.

In 1972 the Younger Committee recognised the greatest fear people had was that the government would create an enormous databank, this led to a series of white papers, reports and eventually laws that safeguard personal data.

The current position for most people on their data privacy is very simple. Lock it down. Lock it down hard. Don’t trust anyone. THE NSA are spying on me, the CIA have fed me nanobots and every evil corporation in the world wants my data. Lock it down. In reality, It is the wild west of data, and the law is out of town and you are out of ammunition. Guess what. We need your data. You need your data. Locked away, shrouded in bureaucratic privacy it is not protected and it’s being stolen every single day.

You own your data, just like you own your body and your time. It is your choice what to do with it. If you want to put it in a vault and never let anyone see it, fine.
But what if you are a student? Facing an education bill in excess of £25,000 with zero prospects of jobs on the other side. Do you want to leave your data in the vault, or do you want to trade it for your education and living expenses?
If you trade your data for £30,000 on a three year deal with me. I know one thing for sure. I will protect my asset. Only, my gun isn’t out of ammunition. Imagine I have 60 million peoples worth of data I’m protecting and selling. If you think diamond dealers or arms dealers understand protection – not more than me.

Currently every organisation in our country has a duty to protect your data, and at the moment this is an obligation that is not their core business. They protect your data to minimise their own risk. That means that your data is only as safe as the weakest link. None of those organisations care about “your” data. They care about their responsibility for the data they hold on you, and they care about the commercial value they can extract from it.

Sure, when the NSA are found to be collecting it, they will shout out vehemently. But not nearly as loudly as they would shout out should the NSA have been stealing their stock.

What If there was a platform where you could trade your data, in real-time? Not only can we provide a revenue stream for the future mass unemployed – We can make amazing things happen.

Imagine having the realtime biometric data of your test and control groups for the new drug you’re testing fed into a quantum computer – analysing results in realtime… We could democratise drug R&D – making it as affordable to cure diseases as it is now to get a website online.

Imagine being able to hand a parcel to someone in your office as they head to the station and that parcel gets handed to someone jumping on the train to Edinburgh, at the other end it is handed to someone else to arrive at your destination. If you can access a market of realtime travel movements we can revolutionise travel and distribution, and save the environment in the process.

And of course, people will use your data to sell you holidays and insurance and food and entertainment. They already do, but right now they don’t pay you for it. And worse than that, they have an incomplete picture – they sell you things you don’t need or want because they don’t have enough data.

So the question is – how do we create a platform where data can be traded securely, legally, ethically, commercially rather than hidden in bureaucracy and left vulnerable to theft?

The tough question is how do we flip our views on data privacy on their head and create a society that understands the value of its data and it’s role in saving the world?

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About Hugo Pickford-Wardle