The digitalization of our society is progressing in a breathtaking pace. Nearly every action in our lives leaves digital traces: We carry our mobile phones, being locatable all the time, we shop on the web, providing taste fingerprints to myriads of recommender systems, and we carry Smart Watches, measuring our body signals to monitor our health. While currently, this data is scattered across many distinct places and provider across the internet, we can subsume that an alter digital ego exists, which is defined by all the data that there is persisted on the web, is that is tied to our person. As over time, this alter ego reflects ever more details of our movements, interactions, and moods, this image becomes more and more precise, eventually representing us fully. As digitalization happens likewise to aggregate societal institutions like companies, cities or countries, our digital alter ego becomes the counterpart for real world transactions. For these transactions, it becomes less important of who we really are, it's more important what our data says about us.
Personal data is the foundation of our digital society. Most value creation in our life regarding e-commerce, streaming media, travel, and sports is build with that data.
Through the smokescreen of improving their services, large incumbents like Facebook, Amazon or Google centralize vast amounts of it, effectively funneling to targeted advertising. Unfortunately, none of the resulting revenues are shared with customers.
Moreover, incumbents historically made it really hard for customers to control their data. Here, legislators in the EU, California or China haven taken measures to mitigate that issue. For instance, the European GDPR defines a right to take away your data, essentially providing consumers with a way to download their data in an expressive digital format.
At the same time, from a user perspective, this does only help a bit. First, significant technical capability is needed to analyze the data, most often not prevalent on the consumer side. Second, the data is way more interesting on aggregate level - allowing e.g. benchmarking music taste between with your peers, which is not accessible to the user. While this is the status quo, incumbents further grow their economic power, while consumers are essentially exploited. As consumer cannot reign over their data autonomously, they also cannot monetize their data, and smaller market participants have huge market entry burdens.