Challenging Big Tech data owners: The contemporary disruptor
Data is a hot topic, and for good reason. From commercial and operational standpoints, data serves as the lifeblood of almost all activities. But it has evolved beyond merely the oil that greases the wheels of internet activity; it has become an integral part of identity—personal identity, the brand, or persona of every organization, and the identifying mechanism for machines (from phones to servers) that exist on the internet.
From a consumer’s point of view, and that is each one of us, our personas exist in multiple forms. We’re buyers of goods, gamers, patients at the local hospital, service users, and thousands more ‘personalities.’ Yet, we have little control over those personas beyond choosing whether or not to give away an email address or date of birth. Our data is held by thousands of third parties, and with better control of it, we’d be happier if we could share more (or less) with the people or organizations we trust (or distrust).
In commercial settings, access to data about people and things with which we have no direct dealings is either difficult or expensive to obtain – or in some cases, both. Yet, a great deal of information could be consumed by, for example, a startup business with the consent of its owners as long as the sharing was a) was consensual and within limits set by the owner, b) safe from being compromised for both parties, and c) within the laws of data governance. If we, as individuals or decision-makers in businesses, had direct control over the data under our jurisdiction, we could gain control over our identities and be able to share to any degree we felt fitting with whomever we choose. The data granted to others would be essentially crafted by us—which would mean no more misrepresentations of a person or thing because of incomplete, stolen, or misrepresented data.
Solving the twin quandaries of ownership over one’s own data or persona, and controlling data dissemination, is the goal behind the Affinidi Trust Network, as we covered in a recent article on Tech Wire Asia. To tease out more details about the thinking behind the Affinidi Trust Network and the concept of Holistic Identity, we spoke exclusively to Glenn Gore, the CEO of Affinidi. You may not have heard of the Affinidi Trust Network yet, but that’s deliberate, according to Mr Gore.
“The reason why we’re starting off slow is that we want to get the basics right so that we’re not facing unintended consequences of what is a very new technological approach,” he said. “The second aspect is the security model around this. We want to take the time to truly understand how to protect the individual. To be honest, if your bank gets hacked, it’s protected, right? Your bank has insurance and regulation around it.
“But if you now have full ownership of all your information, all your data, and you get hacked, who’s going to help you? That’s where we believe there’s still a lot of innovation, development, and deep thinking needed. How do we best protect that? How do you manage your health data and your financial data? You probably don’t want to share that data with a gaming site or an e-commerce site. It’s very complex to expose that in a way that is understandable by 99% of us mere mortals on the planet.”
Convincing all those mere mortals of the veracity and benefits of the Affinidi Trust Network involves winning over two key entities with significant influence: software developers and consumers. For developers, the Affinidi Trust Network offers a suite of tools that is remarkably simple to implement. With just a few lines of code, they can construct privacy-preserving applications. Meanwhile, consumers gain the power to discover, collect, store, share, and even monetize their own data based on individual preferences through an Affinidi Vault. The validation of data and identity by owners and users contributes to the creation of an end-to-end trusted data network. This, in turn, fosters a privacy-preserving and enriched data exchange.
For a business owner or startup visionary, the Affinidi Trust Network is “a modern next-generation identity layer within your business that allows you access to data beyond just your direct customers, and understand your consumers in a more authentic way, going beyond the what [the customers] are doing, into the why,” according to Mr Gore.
“That is the critical change: when I [as an individual] can express, from myself, the reason why I’m visiting Nike.com, because I’m into long distance running. So don’t show me basketball gear [on the home page]; show me the best beginner running shoes right now, straightaway. The first impression [I get] of that site is far, far better.”
Trust is a challenging concept to articulate, particularly within the dynamic relationship between a consumer and a brand—it’s a circular arrangement. When a consumer trusts a brand, they willingly share more information, allowing the brand to cultivate a deeper relationship with the individual. Thanks to the implementation of the Affinidi Trust Network and its assurance of authenticity, customers enjoy an enhanced experience, leading to a gradual sharing of more insightful information over time.
However, in the current landscape of online interactions, the scenario is less favorable, as Mr Gore pointed out. “At present, brands are attempting to gather insights about customers through surveillance techniques. They’re delving into ‘What is John Doe doing, and what information can I acquire about him?’ This practice is increasingly restricted, which is a positive development. But how do we shift the paradigm of data ownership? By allowing individuals to say, ‘I appreciate Nike, and I’m willing to share my running stats, Garmin smart data, and more if it means getting discounts or better shoe recommendations. Why not?’”
The last crucial piece of the puzzle, one on which Affinidi is diligently working, involves creating consumer tools to access and navigate the Affinidi Trust Network. Mr Gore acknowledges that, for the average user, “the user experience has to work like magic.” This is because, beneath the surface, intricate processes such as encryption, authentication, distribution, security, and reliability are at play.
Consumers also need to understand the advantages and how being part of the Affinidi Trust Network significantly improves their situation compared to the current landscape, where data is often misrepresented or compromised.
Mr Gore said: “We need to communicate directly with consumers, encouraging them to join the revolution of reclaiming their data, identity, and self-representation. We have to do this simultaneously because, in this dual marketplace, there’s no point in building this infrastructure if there are no consumers to use it. Conversely, consumers won’t use it if there are no businesses to interact with. Both sides need to grow simultaneously.”
Affinidi serves as a disruptor by effectively demonetizing data, placing data management in the hands of the data’s owners, and providing a user-friendly platform that grants data veracity, authenticity, and sovereignty to anyone and everyone.
Mr Gore said: “The network could be valued at a trillion dollars. But Affinidi itself might only be a small part of that greater network, one that was an enabler within it. We want others to build, [and] assist others who come and say, ‘Hey, we could do this part better.’
“The pace of innovation will be measured by the community that builds with us, not against us. Not Affinidi on its own. It’s the community-based approach or the network-based approach.”
You can read more about the Affinidi Trust Network and the concept of Holistic Identity here, and for software developers interested in how the Affinidi Trust Network can be accessed and built into any project, head over to the documentation.
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