For all the thousands of firms trying to track your activities online and off, none have the big picture.
- Netflix knows you like crude teenage comedies.
- VISA recognizes you donate to your local PBS station, but they don’t know why (perhaps to placate your spouse.)
- USA Today recognizes you as a sports fan.
- Pandora can’t quite understand why you like both Dave Matthews and the Jonas Brothers.
None of them know you’ve been meditating every morning since college, that you vote Republican but are leaning blue this fall, and that you harbor a secret desire to become a teacher.
Some might argue that only you know the big picture, but that’s not really true either. You have no idea which of 4,000 power tools match both your budget and your level of expertise. You love music, but have trouble finding new music to buy. You have much to benefit from understanding how your needs and preferences compare to others.
Time to track yourself?
Personal.com hopes you are ready to collect all your data, store it in their vault, and give access to companies when and where you choose. The key word is: you. You decide who sees what. You decide when to share everything about you, or just a little glimpse.
The potential is significant. Until now, both companies and individuals have been in a standoff. Companies have a difficult enough time sharing data within their own organization, never mind with other firms. Individuals haven’t had a way to collect their data and share it to good effect. (Imagine calling up a Fortune 500 firm and offering to give them a data dump. You’d freak out the poor customer service rep.)
The timing seems very good, too, and not just for positive reasons. We are nearing the rise of the Physical Web, when companies track individuals across the real world like they do today on the Web. If you think companies have already been insanely intrusive, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The possibilities are troubling a growing number of CEOs, who are coming to recognize the potential liabilities.
(Acme CEO nightmare… a front page headline: Acme Corporation Uses Infrared to Track Tissue Users in Their Own Bathrooms.)
Personal seeks to give individuals control over their data, as does the awkwardly-named but highly insightful Project VRM working group. The VRM folks are seeking to spark more initiatives like Personal, and spur the creation of VRM tools that will “provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors.”
Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo just wrote a much talked about report that argues consumers are ready to manage their own data, and also penned an HBR article with the same theme.
As Personal reveals more of their plans, we’ll write more about them, as well as other initiatives that empower individuals. Smart companies will get behind these efforts.