Sara Reiner | Contributor
December 17, 2012

The consumption of the digital you


Did you know that your digital data isn’t just for those you follow on Twitter or people on your friends list on Facebook?  There is a large, growing and yet unregulated market for your digital information. It’s not uncommon for data about you to be consumed by your doctor’s office, your car or even your refrigerator.

While data mining is definitely not a new concept, data availability has sharply risen as consumers are leaving even more data behind with a larger digital footprint than ever before. Sources of the increase include the 27% percent of web traffic coming from mobile devices (up 9 percent from 2011), and over 1,400,000 Android and Apple apps, all which can potentially create and maintain data about users to some extent.

More consumers have started thinking about how their data is being collected, stored and shared – and by whom.  There is a budding industry forming with the hope that consumers will be able to have control over their own data. This idea is called Personal Identity Management (PIDM). Forrester defines PIDM as “the rules, standards, and processes by which individuals and organizations manage, use, and share personal data and identity with other individuals and organizations.”

Forrester also states there are four types of information that are within your personal data ecosystem:

  1. Identifiers for Individuals: such as your driver’s license or Social Security number.
  2.  Behavioral data: data from transactions, location data, and your web-browsing history.
  3. Derived data: information that comes from analytic models like your credit score.
  4. Self-Identified data: data you create through interaction with professional networks, social networks, etc.

Our connected devices are giving companies peeks into our lives and into our data, one tap of the screen or keystroke at a time.

There is literally a wealth of information out there.  Companies who resell digital information, so-called “data brokers”, are reaping the benefits of our freely given information.  More than $2 billion a year is spent on third-party data about individuals, according to Forrester

 It’s not just the data dealers who are winning.  Companies like Klout have started ranking consumers and giving them e-scores.   While Klout’s scores are social media based, other companies like issue an e-score is similar to a credit score only in the sense that it’s a rating used by companies to make decisions about whether a company wants you as a customer. Unlike a credit score, however, it’s mostly invisible to the public and takes things into account like your spending history or salary. An algorithm then predicts your possible future spending – which is like having a crystal ball.

Though the situation may sound bleak, consumers aren’t totally powerless in this situation. Companies like Personal offer data vault services via the web and mobile apps for both the iPhone and Android. Data “vaults” give you as the consumer the chance to be in control of who gets access to digital information that you want to share but don’t want to store in your email- things like passwords, credit card information, addresses, etc. Personal refers to this this information as “gems”.  You put your gems in the Personal vaults and use the “grant and request” features to exchange information. A Gem Gallery allows for easy browsing and access to gems.

Personal also recently launched their API and developer portal, which can enable the creation of even more tools and apps for customers to take back their data and digital persona, one byte at a time.