Our digital data is more valuable than our non-digital data. So why do we care less?

A framework to protect our digital data using a shared responsibility model based on data value.

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If you were asked what your most prized assets are today what would your answer be? Family and pets aside, it could be your Beamer, the $5,000-dollar coffee machine or your house? What if you are wrong? Not that these are not prized items, but the value that they command is nothing compared to something that you and I are in possession of (sort of) that is infinitely more valuable, and it is getting even more valuable over time. That is - our digital data!

Yes, it's the location searches you are doing, the orphaned Amazon cart where you left 3 items without checking out (and the AI algorithm is going crazy enticing you to buy those items by dropping the price just for you!) and your kids' Alexa questions that drive you batty. While the Beamer, the coffee machine, and the house are tangible and physical assets that you can see every day and continue to be top of mind, our fleeting digital interactions are not.

But that's not true. Our minds may not be able to remember what we asked Google Duplex yesterday, but Google does not forget. Ever. And therein lies the quandary. Our exploding data is being constantly siphoned and stored away from our meager minds as we move from Snap to Instagram to FB live. And to be fair, there is a lot of value that these applications provide us but that does not take away the responsibility that these organizations have towards protecting our data.

The latest expose (no not the Facebook <-> Cambridge Analytics fiasco that is over 2 months old - a millennium in digital time) is related to the big 3 mobile providers in the US - ATT, Verizon, and Sprint - sharing our location information with third-party providers that used that data to target individuals. In this case, it came to light following revelations that one of the companies with access to this system was a prison phone provider that allowed law-enforcement agencies find the location of any mobile user without obtaining a court order. What is scary about this is that this predates our digital transformation? This is the humble mobile phone with its own GPS and cell phone tower-based coordinates that was mishandled.

Today's app frenzied consumer who has location tracking turned on for every app is giving away this data willy-nilly without understanding and attributing value to this data. And do any of us actually verify the credentials of the app creator before we download the app? Or just go by the ratings - the wisdom of the crowds, right? This is the digital data that needs to be protected. We have our home security system for the house, car alarm for the Beamer and yet we take our digital exhaust so lightly.

There are really two responsible parties here that need to step up. While the big three providers are waxing eloquently about how they will clean up their privacy practices following this expose, it will take regulators, consumer watchdogs, and stringent self-policing to keep these providers (and enterprises) in check. Ditto for the digital economies aka Facebook, Googles of the world.

But there is another really important party that needs to step up. And that is, hold your breath, you and me. Yes, we consumers need a bigger voice. One that is not activated on emotion and disgust and the ensuing #DeleteFacebook movement. That is not sustainable! Are we going to do a #DeleteATT, #DeleteVerizon and #DeleteSprint following this most recent expose? And given our digital overload, it is to be expected that we go back to our social addiction after our transient angst dissipates.

What we need is a more sustainable framework that consumers need to embrace. One that is easy to understand for the consumer, sustainable to implement in the long run and creates a level of transparency and trust between the consumer and the provider. And that is the job of every vendor, enterprise and service provider out there.

Any vendor who harvests any data, which is practically every single one, needs to step up and provide an easy to understand user engagement model. And nothing is easier to understand than commerce. By that I mean, if the service or product is free, the vendor offers a credit for a premium offering and if there is an ongoing subscription, reduce the price for that month. How much? Based on the value of the data that consumer provided for that month.

That would automatically raise awareness in the consumer's eyes given the varying monthly credits or freebies but equally importantly force the provider to reckon with the classification of the various data types and attributing initial value to each class of data and ongoing derived intelligence. In the case of our location data type, given its heightened sensitivity, the initial value would automatically be high and the provider would need to reckon with this initial value attribution for choosing to collect that data as well as the ongoing value multiplication if that data reveals its potential.

That would make for a fair digital haven. And where security and data privacy become a shared responsibility model.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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