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Revisiting the API of ME

About 6 months ago, I wrote an article on the “API of ME“, an idea for a system of capturing, sharing, and **limiting* information by and about customers so that they could participate actively in a marketplace of data that includes their data. This is a follow-up to that post, inspired by HelpMeWrite*

The Big Picture of Your Big Data

Big Companies (and governmental entities) make decisions about our data every day. Wouldn’t it be great if it was easier to create “the API of Me” and segment the information those companies were allowed to sell? And wouldn’t it also be great if the company could ask you (and give you micro-payment) for additional data it wanted to sell? For the purposes of argument, let’s talk about voluntary means of asking for and receiving information instead of other forms of information collection.

Why do we need a system to do this?

The current online identity system is hopelessly fragmented and controlled by companies, not consumers.

I believe that customers and browsers (people who consume media and do not purchase) have a right to know how their information is being used.

Most things that are free on the Internet need a business model. I believe that Companies have a right to make money off of this consumption and should be sharing more openly with customers how their data is being used (whether it is sold directly or aggregated.) I also believe that customers should have a right to control how that data is being asked for and used.

And there is so much information being shared today in a combination of media by customers that it’s really hard to even know what you’re sharing. It would be great if it were easier for customers to make their preferences known about the information being used.

We all need a service that can expand our existing electronic identity to other future uses and to allow those future uses to learn more about us and to provide better service, more utility, and societal good while minimizing the possibility of “bad actors” to make inappropriate use of that information.

This idea needs to support an elegant, multi-factor authentication solution that’s as simple as possible, and no simpler.

What’s the goal?

The goal of this idea is to make data sharing transparent. An API of ME would also allow you to become a data broker for the information you would like to share with the world, and to make that sharing process easy to use and understand. If you imagine a venn diagram of “most private,” “somewhat private,” and “public” information that you specify, an API of ME would help you separate that content and activity into buckets.

When a company wants your data and has never made an agreement with you for that information, a possible solution might include a detailed request for information not unlike the way that oAuth connections (consider how you connect a 3rd-party account like Twitter or Facebook) ask for that information today.

What is the benefit of an API of ME for Customers?

Customers would benefit from an API of Me by being able to specify directly what information they’d like to share and where. If the system worked well, the default level of sharing would make sense to most people (it might look like “share everything”, “share nothing,” and “tell me the kind of things you’d like to share.”) In an ideal world those customers would get paid for sharing that data.

What is the benefit of an API of ME for Companies?

Simply put, better qualified leads for activity, sales, interactions, and a true possibility at building a relationship. When a company really knows me – understanding where and when I like to be contacted and the types of offers that are valuable to me – that company gains my trust. I’m more likely to take a chance that they will do a good thing rather than immediate suspect ill will.

Can this happen?

Who knows. We are already in the business of sharing a lot of information with each other and with the companies that facilitation. Those companies are already selling our data (because, as you well know, if you’re not paying for the product, the product is you.) And yet there is the possibility that brokering the conversation will start not only a backlash at the extent to which this information is being bought and sold today but also a real marketplace for information where the key elements are owned and negotiated by the customer.

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