Building a Data Trust for the Personal Information Economy
Data privacy, particularly for personally identifiable information, has become more important for consumers.
Much of the growing pressure to ensure better data security and privacy is coming from consumers, and organizations would be wise to note this trend as they look for ways to improve data protection. A recent report by professional services firm KPMG shows just how much of an issue data protection has become for individuals. For its study, “New Imperative for Corporate Data Responsibility,” the firm surveyed 1,000 respondents in the U.S. online in May 2020. It found that U.S. consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with—and distrustful of—how companies use, manage, and protect their personal data.
More than half of those surveyed (56%) said they want more control over their personal data, and insist that both businesses and government entities must play an active role in protecting consumer data. A large majority of the respondents (97%) indicated that data privacy is important to them, with 87% characterizing it as a human right.
Consumers have become deeply suspicious of what companies are doing with their data, the report noted, and nearly 70% of the consumers do not trust companies to ethically sell personal data. Many don’t trust companies to use personal data in an ethical way.
Data trusts are a way to build transparent, accountable governance structures over digital property and rights. Trusts are legal instruments that assign management authority over an asset to a steward, a trustee, who uses that asset to achieve a purpose on behalf of the ultimate owner of that property, the beneficiary (or group of beneficiaries). Data trusts take that same legal architecture, but apply them to data, and the rights that digital transactions implicate, to achieve the purpose for the beneficiary.
Social media and digital content platforms have to mediate between competing interests – often in ways that benefit from engagement with users or other stakeholders. Platforms increasingly use third-party civil society organizations to either set socially impactful standards – for example, around news source credibility – as well as working with independent oversight groups. One compelling use of data trusts is to create a credibly independent and legally accountable oversight body, toward ensuring the best use of the underlying platform to achieve common goals.
Ultimately, the value of using data trusts in digital content ecosystems is not that they’ll create new forms of authority – it’s that they’ll enable existing, but disparate, stakeholders to engage in collective bargaining, appoint independent governance, and create a means for meaningful participation in the way norms and policies are made in digital ecosystems. Data trusts are a tool for formalizing markets, supply chains, and governance mechanisms in ways that keep everyone involved accountable to public expectations, in order to legitimize digital transformations. Said simply, data trusts are a way to embed formal data and digital content governance.
In the Conversation
We at DataHive look forward to leading and implementing a data trust for the personal information economy. Additional information will be shared in late 2022.
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