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World Economic Forum’s ‘Rethinking Personal Data: strengthening trust’ report


The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published today a new report entitled ‘Rethinking Personal Data: Strengthening Trust’ to which STL Partners and the Telco 2.0 Initiative have contributed through our own research, our participation as part of the WEF’s Global ICT Council, and our role leading a ‘Tiger Team’ expert group for the project. We’ll be looking at the role of personal data in new business models at the EMEA Brainstorm, June 12-13, London, and holding another private ‘tiger team’ meeting the day after.

The WEF says “the new report examines how the appropriate use of personal data can create enormous value for governments, organizations and individuals and provides a multistakeholder perspective on how the potential value of personal data can be unlocked to achieve new efficiencies in business, tailor and personalize new products, help respond to global challenges and empower individuals to engage in social, commercial and political activities more effectively.”

WEF strengthening trust paper image may 2012.png

You can download it here, and see also this video from our CEO Simon Torrance covering the core principles here, and this from Doc Searls on “Big Data: How Personal Clouds and ‘VRM’ will revolutionise Customer Relationships”. There’s more below from the WEF on the report’s contents.

The report is structured to foster dialogue around some of the following issues:

  • Who owns personal data?
  • How do we protect individual privacy?
  • How should rules for usage be formed and what is the role of context in establishing permissions?
  • How should organizations that use personal data be held accountable, both for securing data and for adhering to the agreed-upon rules?
  • What is the role of regulators given the global flow of personal data?
The report highlights that a declining sense of trust throughout the personal data ecosystem is jeopardizing the long-term potential to deliver socioeconomic value. High-profile data security breaches, rampant identity theft, a general lack of transparency in how personal data is monetized, and an absence of globally harmonized policies for privacy and the use of data all compound to create an unstable ecosystem. Companies are unclear about what they can and cannot do with personal data and are either standing on the sidelines or forging ahead with an unclear understanding of liabilities and the potential for negative impact on their reputations and brands. Governments are proposing various laws and regulations to protect privacy while also aiming to encourage innovation and growth.

To ensure the value of personal data can be unlocked, the report suggests three areas of focus:

  • Upgrade Protection and Security: Focus on how to protect privacy and secure personal data against intentional and unintentional security breaches and misuse
  • Agree on Rights and Responsibilities for Using Data: Establish consensus on rights, responsibilities and permissions for using personal data in ways that recognize the importance of context and the need to balance the interests of all relevant stakeholders
  • Strengthen Accountability and Enforcement: Hold organizations accountable for protecting and securing personal data and using it in accordance with the rights and established permissions for the trusted flow of data

The recommendations are based on an extensive set of global discussions by a community of experts and practitioners within the private sector, academia, governments and multilateral institutions. The research included numerous interviews and interactive sessions to discuss the opportunities for collaborative action. The insights highlighted significant differences in views not only from different stakeholders, but also from different geographies.

This report is part of the World Economic Forum’s Rethinking Personal Data initiative. Launched in 2010, its intent is to bring together private companies, public sector representatives, end-user privacy and rights groups, academics and topic experts to deepen the collective understanding of how a principled, collaborative and balanced personal-data ecosystem can evolve.

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