A brief take on the current data landscape

Imagine a world where rather than being exploited for the value you generate and being stripped of the ownership of your digital identity, you are able to monetise your data without compromising on privacy or data ownership. In this world, you will be able to grant firms, governments, or any interested parties access to compute on your data in exchange for something of value — a product, a service, or even direct payment. These parties would never be able to see the data they are computing over and thus you retain full ownership over your digital identity.

The case for change

To understand why this is the case, let’s take a step back and look at the current data landscape as three tiers of events:

  1. Data breaches happen when firms hold data.
  2. Cybersecurity costs are incurred by these firms in order to minimise the risk of a data breach.
  3. Regulation and compliance requirements are put in place by governments to ensure firms are held accountable for protecting the data of the governed people.

The current data landscape is riddled with flaws — data breaches, compliance breaches, firms misusing data, and the general growing dissatisfaction with the exploitation of our digital selves. Current approaches to dealing with these flaws are merely putting band-aids on them. There are entire businesses built around bandaging up the third and second tiers. Yet cybersecurity and compliance are becoming increasingly complex and expensive to manage. The question becomes how do firms increase data security whilst decreasing complexity and still staying compliant. The answer is deceptively simple.

A foundational fiction

  1. Firms are no longer liable for sensitive data breaches because they don’t hold or see any sensitive data.
  2. Being compliant becomes a lot easier when you never hold or see any sensitive data.

Cutting the foundational event out leads to the collapse of the two dependent events and a drastically simplified approach to extracting value from data. With this simplicity comes significant cost reductions and the prospect of a new age of privacy-preserving applications delivering immense value to all stakeholders. I refer readers to my ‘Fair-trade data’ piece for more on this.


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