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Why the Right to Delete is so important Online

March 20, 2014

We all instinctively know that when we connect to websites and use online apps that some data is being collected about us.  Sometimes we explicitly know what that data is from forms we filled in, but in reality it’s what we do online that tells the most interesting tale of who we are.

What we spend time reading, what we skip past, what we click on, what we respond to – all this information adds to a profile about us and it can be extremely detailed – see this 60 Minutes TV story: The Data Brokers: Selling your personal information – 

Most people think that this information is just used to target adverts, so what’s the problem?  Unfortunately they are wrong, as the 60 Minutes documentary highlights, in the US in particular, huge corporates collect more and more data about your online activities and analyse it to create a view on who you are, your interests, habits, who your friends are etc, they then sell this data on to anyone willing to pay, which includes insurance companies for example, who want to know more and more about how much of a risk you are.  The trouble is, this profile collation is unregulated, cannot be tracked and you cannot review it for accuracy.  So a bit like a gossip who gets a bit of a story wrong because they only hear one side of the story, these data brokers don’t really know how accurate their profile of you is.  It only takes one inaccurate bit of data to end up costing you dearly.

Now of course this business will eventually be regulated….but as 60 Minutes highlights, governments love this Big Data too.  They are a customer as much as commercial entities, and as such it’s very empowering for them, so they are not exactly highly motivated to give you the consumer the right to control this data.

Even if you take care about reading privacy policies on websites and apps (I do), you’ll find that the business model du jour is build it, collate as much user profiles as possible then decide what the business model for making money is later on. In short you do not know how the data you share will be used when you engage with a company – and by the time they decide, you are committed.  Even if you make a choice to stop using that service or use a more privacy conscious  competitor service, the business still owns all the data they collated about you and can sell it on, usually years worth, by which time you may feel it’s too late, you are hooked in so you may as well continue.  This is the pernicious culture the business model of the internet today cultivates.

So what to do?  In our opinion at Krowdthink, the most empowering thing that can be delivered to consumers is the right to delete.  Specifically you should have the right to delete any specific piece of information about you, or indeed all the information collated by a business or service.  This requires transparency of what information is held by a business or service.  Its your data so why can’t you see it?  Except of course it isn’t your data – the legal structures of companies like Facebook make it clear, every bit of data you share with them, every interaction, is owned by them to use commercially. This is why at Krowdthink we are creating an innovative legal structure to  guarantee that your data belongs to you.  As soon as you make that step in your business process, the right to delete follows as a natural consequence.

If we can set an example in social networks about how data can be used to deliver a service and still empower the end user with complete control, we can reverse the  data collection and ownership culture of Big Data businesses. Empowering consumers with the right to delete is the only way we can reverse the current pernicious Internet business culture that so disempowers us as consumers and users.

The EU has been seeking to add the right to delete to the Data Protection act, it’s being strongly fought by Google, Facebook and others because it undermines the core of their business.  We suspect if the right to delete is ever legislated it’ll be so watered down as to be meaningless.  But this does not stop innovative companies delivering this empowering capability to end users.  It’s Krowdthink’s mission and when we launch the Krowd you’ll see it in action.  It’s time to take back control of our data online!

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