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Introduction to digital identity and personal data

Dernière mise à jour : 6 juin 2023

The following article was written by Jonathan Llamas, the guest of our most recent podcast (see above). It deals with the problem of misuse of personal data and digital identity and outlines, based on Jonathan’s own concept, how personal data could be handled in the future. INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL IDENTITY AND PERSONAL DATA Just as the information in a passport identifies its holder for specific purposes, a digital identity, in its simplest form, is an online proxy for a real individual. It can be used to identify the individual for many more purposes in our digital age than would be possible with just a paper-based passport. These attributes can represent the obvious: given and chosen attributes such as name, last name, passport number, address, along with other demographic data. Less obvious digital attributes are preferences, opinions and attitudes (psychographic data).Collectively, this information can be used to create a profile of a person, with varying degrees of certainty, or level of assurance (LOA), that indicates whether a particular person is indeed who they say they are, thereby allowing the holder of that identity access to services or resources at a physical location or online. The more strongly these attributes can be verified and linked to the real person, the more valuable such a digital identity can be to the citizens who opt to use it and to the parties who rely on it, and thus to the entire identity ecosystem. And just as a passport contains only a narrow set of identifying data, a digital identity also consists of only a narrow set of all the data related to a person. The much broader set of rapidly growing personal data available about an individual includes a lot of user-generated content, such as pictures and health-tracking data that can be directly or indirectly linked to an individual, for instance via the metadata contained within modern digital devices. The rapidly evolving relationship between personal data and digital identity is a growing concern for individuals and companies alike. Individuals are increasingly worried about forgoing both their privacy and their ability to control who has access to their personal data and what is being done with this information.Companies, on the other hand, fear that mishandling the data – be it through their own, or third-party applications – could undermine their position as a trusted provider. The frequency and extent of known data security breaches at major corporations around the world show that data theft is a very profitable business. This is also a reflection of the inherent value of an individual‘s personal data. Hence, for digital identity systems to truly succeed and deliver on their promise, it is widely recognized now that a new paradigm is urgently needed. DIGITAL ADVERTISING: FAST-GROWING BUT PLAGUED WITH INEFFICIENCIES AND ABUSE Individuals continue to increase their time spent using digital media, while advertisers continue to increase their advertisingbudgets into digital channels. Thanks to rising internet penetration rates and the ever-expanding popularity of digital platforms around the world, digital advertising has grown to become one of the most important forms of advertising. An estimated 566 billion U.S. dollars were projected to be spent on digital advertising worldwide in 2022, and this figure is forecast to increase at a rapid pace in the upcoming years. According to the latest projections, digital advertising revenue will surpass 700 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. But for companies wanting to reach out to potential clients and who are having to budget for brand advertising, an excessive number of intermediaries must be taken into account. It is estimated that for every USD 1 spent on digital marketing, advertisers only receive 44 cents of value, the rest being absorbed by intermediaries. Ever rampant and fraudulent malware and other malicious bots are further adding to the problems currently afflicting the advertising marketplace. PERSONAL DATA TSUNAMI The volume of personal data that is generated each and every day is mind-boggling. As the internet economy hums along, billions of connected devices, people, and sensors record trillions of transactions and behaviours. Just as remarkable is the potential value of data. When gathered, analyzed and connected, personal data has the potential to reveal patterns or enable practices that can transform businesses and societies. As discussed above, efforts to protect privacy tend to place a premium on the consent of the individual – best illustrated by all the “I agree” boxes one sees online. But the prevailing notice-and-consent approach has clear limitations: it fails to give people any understanding of, or genuine control over how their information will be used. VETRI MARKETPLACE The VETRI marketplace is taking the concepts of personal data control and self-sovereignty one step further. As owners of their personal data regardingpurchases, online browsing history or mobile data, users can also be able to choose whether or not to “sell” that data, with user-defined rights and restrictions implemented in smart contracts. To quote a Harvard Business Review’s articleentitled “Blockchain could Help USReclaimControl of Our Personal Data”, this blockchain-enabled innovation “could shift the power of (and profit from) data management from big, established firms back to individual users”. Digital marketers as data consumers do not need to know people’s names or contact details to run effective marketing campaigns. In fact, all they require is a certain assurance they can reach a desired target audience as defined by a combination of the users’ demographic data, tastes and preferences (psychographic data). With VETRI, users can pro-actively share anonymized demographic and psychographic data, thus enabling the creation of target audience filters on the VETRI platform for digital advertisers to use. However, with VETRI these advertisers can never read nor copy the information, but are simply assured that a defined pool of users correspond to their audience criteria and have consented to receiving advertising from them or from similar companies as specified by the users’ interestsand preference settings. From the advertisers’ perspective, the process is akin to marketing on Facebook and Google but from the user‘s standpoint, the differences are significant:

  • Users will be remunerated instead of the intermediaries

  • VETRI, by design, will not be able to access, read nor collect any information contained in users’ wallets

  • Similarly, companies conducting surveys and polls do not require users’ identities and, in fact, are most effective and least biased when users are guaranteed anonymity

(Jonathan Llamas, Founder of Vetri Foundation).

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