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Privacy as a Commercial Asset

September 15, 2015

Lets start by making a fundamental statement of belief – The current state of the Internet with regards to the commercialisation of our data and every online interaction, especially including sensor-based data collation as defined mostly by the IoT and smartphones, will not abate until we find a commercial model for making delivery of privacy a commercial asset.

Arguably this is precisely what Tim Cook is doing at Apple as he starts to play the privacy card strategically.  He fundamentally points to an age old truism that without privacy we cannot have freedom. However Apple makes money by selling consumer goods.  So for him privacy is a competitive differential against Google, who’s whole business model for almost everything it does is to collect and sell our data, to profile us with ever increasing accuracy and sell that data indirectly for ever increasing software value delivery. Apple still collects as much data as they can, asking for the implicit trust of its users that they will keep it secure. So are they any better than Google?

As any half competent technologist will tell you, it’s impossible to secure all that data online, especially if that data exists for what is likely to be a whole lifetime.  It can, and almost certainly will, leak out.  The recent spate of highly publicised hacks like Ashley Madison is just the tip of a huge iceberg of security breaches that the technorati have known about for a long time. Even Apple’s iCloud was hacked although whether that was a failing of their systems or user error is hard to confirm, but either way the data was breached.

So building on the strategic play of Apple, while mitigating the security concern, becomes something any company could potentially leverage.  As consumers come to understand the potential cost of allowing their data to be obtained and used by any online commercial entity for any purpose, they will desire to claw back control, as they suffer consequences of data loss they’ll move from desire to need.  But studies show consumers don’t change their behaviour much even after a consequence is visited upon them…why?  because there is no choice, except through a deep understanding of the tech and how to employ personal protection tools, a barrier too high for 90%+ of consumers…yet another disempowerment issue.

Control is the key enabler of privacy, control based on an understanding of what data is held by whom and for what purpose is the essence of a privacy platform.  These are empowerment issues.  Today the commercial entity is empowered through our data to be in control.  We have to trust them, we have no choice.  But what if we could chose to trust an entity because they seek to empower us as consumers?  That’s a different thought process.

Offering competitive choice is the essence of Krowdthink’s Trust pyramid. in a future blog we’ll discuss how to make revenue from this trust model.  We say now – it’s not a replacement for existing models, the Internet as it is will exist for years to come, but we can re-invent existing products with a Trust based alternative and monetise them in subtly different ways.  We can also tap into market sectors previously unaccessible due to consumer trust/privacy concerns.

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