Owning our data

With the internet of everything (IoE), once everything is connected, where will our data reside? Who will own it and who will control it?

“In real life, things go wrong. With such a large network encompassing so many devices and objects (Cisco says there will be 50 billion by 2020) there’s a lot of complexity, and plenty of opportunity for errors and malfeasance. “We will live in a world where many things won’t work, and nobody will know how to fix them,” says Howard Rheingold, an Internet sociologist. Our successes in integrating many things successfully may lead to overreach and hubris, the report’s respondents say.” – Fast Coexist

If things do not work, will we know what has happened to our data? Individual control over data may be a more robust way to ensure some level of privacy. The Respect Network is an early example of this move, providing a secure network to share private data. Meanwhile, the IoE is seen by some active players in the field as a way to trade data for information.

It’s a business model that didn’t exist before,” said Stjernfeldt [ senior technology principal at Shell Technology Ventures], gesturing to Woo [general manager of the Internet of Things at Cisco] on his left and a representative of GE Canada on his right. “I’m willing to let someone like Cisco or GE have access to my data. Then they can crunch it and I’ll buy it back. That’s new.” – TechVibes

As the IoE becomes a reality, it will become more important to understand what happens with our data. While companies may freely trade data for information, the line may be fuzzier with individuals. Many of us already use services that are owned by others (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google) where we give away our data. Currently, we can can take more control by owning a domain name or using a self-hosted blog. Finding a balance between taking advantage of new services brought about by the IoE but not becoming overly dependent on them will be the new challenge. This is something most of us have not been very good at so far with online social networks.

In the next great industrial revolution will be data-driven, the major premise is that data factories are “changing the nature of work by allowing freelancers to market their services to an increasingly large audience.” The danger of course is that a few companies will have control of these data factories and freelancers will become the product. As they say with social media, if you are not paying for the service, then you are the product. It seems the IoE may increase the speed of automation, making more human jobs obsolete, as data become a capital resource. Will data factories become the new breed of middle-men while freelancers lose control? This could be a growing area of social and economic tension in the near future.

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Do you own your data?

Our challenge is to understand the limitations and potential of the IoE and make informed decisions. Ownership of data will soon be an important issue. It’s time for all of us to get educated on the subject. For example, digital economy apps like Uber may be ushering in, “a new type of conflict between technology and society. Two dimensions are moving at different speeds and fighting a battle to determine which will change the other“, according to WorldCrunch.

As Stephen Downes says, “If you’re not watching developments in this arena, you should be.”

This post is brought to you by InnovateThink and Cisco.

I retained all editorial control.

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