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Michael Becker, speaks with Liz Brandt, CEO at Ctrl-Shift, global thought-leaders in all things personal data and identity about the personal data and identity marketplace.  

The personal data and identity marketplace can be summed up in one word: “value.” During my discussion with Liz Brandt, CEO at Ctrl-Shift, we asked and answered three questions: What is the personal data and identity marketplace? What do people need to know? And, what do people need to do? The answers I took away for each of these questions are, respectively: value, individuals’ empowerment, and context is important. We also discussed and quantified the value generation capabilities of personal data mobility and identified two market failure points that need to be overcome.

According to Liz, the personal information and identity marketplace can be summed up into one word: “value.” For Liz, personal data and identity are the lifeblood, the fuel, of the world’s economies and society at large. Liz and I discussed the value that can be generated when personal data is used appropriately, two market failure points, and the importance of context.

The Value of Personal Data and Identity

Personal data and identity can contribute much to the world’s economies and society at large. However, since personal data and identity are so ingrained throughout every aspect of our society, reliability and accurately quantifying these contributions across all the possible use cases is extremely difficult. This is a challenge, however, that has not stopped Liz and her team. The team at Ctrl-Shift has produced several end-to-end personal data mobility live-data simulations reports (what they call “sandbox studies”) that shed light on the viability of personal data exchange. All of these reports are a must-read, as they provide a multi-disciplinary, in-depth, strategic view of not just on what is happing on the personal data and identity fronts, but also a look into the why’s and what we should do about them. 

Personal information and identity are the core of the value in our digital economy. Moving forward, personal information and identity will be the absolute lifeblood and nervous system of every piece of digital service that’s delivered to you and me. Personal data and identity enable businesses to serve individuals and work effectively and efficiently. 

Measurable value

In 2018, Liz and a group of economists sat down to measure the economic benefits that personal data mobility can bring to the U.K. economy (see Data mobility: The personal data portability growth opportunity for the UK economy). They estimated that personal data mobility can add £28.7 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually. In the report, they suggest that personal data mobility exists when personal data can safely, efficiently, and fairly flow through the economy in such a way that it maximizes and fairly distributes the value created for the individual, social, and commercial actors. Liz was quick to point out that £28.7 billion underestimates the value that can be generated from personal data and identity mobility. This number only represents the gains from increased market productivity and improved competition–the economists were unable to reliably quantify the other sources of value that exist.

It is worth noting that the estimates produced by Liz and her team are in line with estimates made by McKinsey (2013). McKinsey estimated that open data, a familial term to data mobility. They define open data as “public information and shared data from private sources,” and suggest that it could increase a country’s GDP by 3 to 13 percent. According to McKinsey’s analysis, seven sectors alone (education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, health care, consumer finance) could generate an additional $3 trillion a year in additional value from the availability and effective use of open data. 

Non-measurable value, but no less important

Liz goes on to explain, however, that measuring the value of personal data and identity in dollars and cents is not enough. She shared insight from another report she worked on. This report found that three data points—an individual’s finances, the number of people they’re in contact with, and their sleep patterns—can be a predictor of a looming mental health crisis. The data shows that if an individual is having trouble with their finances, is not interacting with very many people, and is not sleeping well, they may be due for a mental health crisis within six months. It is difficult to quantifiably measure the positive impact these types of insights may have on the individual or the economy at large, but logic suggests that they’re huge.

Two Market Failure Points

Liz suggests there are two market failure points that must be overcome if we’re to unlock the value of personal data and identity. These include individuals’:

  • Data availability: We must get data into the hands of individuals (what she refers to as availability).
  • Tools availability: We need to ensure that people have the proper tools and knowledge to use them and their data.

In our conversation, Liz points out that leading enterprises have become extremely efficient and effective with their use of data, which helps them innovate and successfully engage people. However, this is not the case for individuals, the subject of all this data. Just imagine what people could do if they could access all their own data to help them efficiently and effectively make more informed decisions. Liz uses the example of buying a car. If an individual, like an enterprise, could readily have available all the data related to their transportation needs (e.g., driving history, gas prices, insurance consumption, computing routes, planned trips), for instance, they could make an informed decision about the next car they buy, rent, lease, or even if they need a car at all. The data may show they’d be better off using Uber or riding a bike. Or, in the health care example, if they had more access to their data they’d have more insight to manage their self-care.

On the point of data availability, even with the introduction of people-centric regulations that give people the right to their data, it is simply too difficult for most people to get access to their data. You should try it for yourself, go make a data request from Facebook. It is not easy. And, even when you do get your data, there is not much you can do with it. 

This is where the tools come in. These tools fall under a variety of terms, including personal information management systems (PIMS), self-sovereign identity services, personal data stores, personal data wallets, and more. The solutions vary in capabilities and backend technologies, but they all have a common purpose to give individuals control, and in some cases economic ownership, of their personal data. See the MyData Operators Report, which provides a comprehensive overview of some of these emerging tools.

There’s More Work to Be Done

In our short seventeen minutes together in this interview, Liz and I touched on just a few of the important themes related to personal data and identity; however, we concluded on one important theme: context. To maximize the value of personal data and identity, Liz emphasizes that we need to leverage context (i.e., the who, what, when, where, and what’s going on) to make the most informed decision. We discussed how looking at context may lead to unexpected, indirect, and more situationally appropriate insights and answers.

There is value to be had from personal data and identity. We simply need to do more to safely and effectively harness it and ensure its equitable distribution.

Michael Becker

Founder, CEO, Identity Praxis


Join the MEF Personal Data & Identity working group

The MEF Personal Data & Identity working group is undertaking a PD&I market assessment effort.

Please reach out to Michael Becker if you have insights (consumer insight, operational insight, solutions and technical insight, use case, recommended organization and leaders) that you think can help the MEF and its members make an impact.