Article by Florian Gröne, Pierre Péladeau, and Rawia Abdel Samad: “Telecom companies are struggling to find a profitable identity in today’s digital sphere. What about helping customers control their information?…
By 2025, Alex had had enough. There no longer seemed to be any distinction between her analog and digital lives. Everywhere she went, every purchase she completed, and just about every move she made, from exercising at the gym to idly surfing the Web, triggered a vast flow of data. That in turn meant she was bombarded with personalized advertising messages, targeted more and more eerily to her. As she walked down the street, messages appeared on her phone about the stores she was passing. Ads popped up on her all-purpose tablet–computer–phone pushing drugs for minor health problems she didn’t know she had — until the symptoms appeared the next day. Worse, she had recently learned that she was being reassigned at work. An AI machine had mastered her current job by analyzing her use of the firm’s productivity software.
It was as if the algorithms of global companies knew more about her than she knew herself — and they probably did. How was it that her every action and conversation, even her thoughts, added to the store of data held about her? After all, it was her data: her preferences, dislikes, interests, friendships, consumer choices, activities, and whereabouts — her very identity — that was being collected, analyzed, profited from, and even used to manage her. All these companies seemed to be making money buying and selling this information. Why shouldn’t she gain some control over the data she generated, and maybe earn some cash by selling it to the companies that had long collected it free of charge?
So Alex signed up for the “personal data manager,” a new service that promised to give her control over her privacy and identity. It was offered by her U.S.-based connectivity company (in this article, we’ll call it DigiLife, but it could be one of many former telephone companies providing Internet services in 2025). During the previous few years, DigiLife had transformed itself into a connectivity hub: a platform that made it easier for customers to join, manage, and track interactions with media and software entities across the online world. Thanks to recently passed laws regarding digital identity and data management, including the “right to be forgotten,” the DigiLife data manager was more than window dressing. It laid out easy-to-follow choices that all Web-based service providers were required by law to honor
Today, in 2019, personal data management applications like the one Alex used exist only in nascent form, and consumers have yet to demonstrate that they trust these services. Nor can they yet profit by selling their data. But the need is great, and so is the opportunity for companies that fulfill it. By 2025, the total value of the data economy as currently structured will rise to more than US$400 billion, and by monetizing the vast amounts of data they produce, consumers can potentially recapture as much as a quarter of that total.
Given the critical role of telecom operating companies within the digital economy — the central position of their data networks, their networking capabilities, their customer relationships, and their experience in government affairs — they are in a good position to seize this business opportunity. They might not do it alone; they are likely to form consortia with software companies or other digital partners. Nonetheless, for legacy connectivity companies, providing this type of service may be the most sustainable business option. It may also be the best option for the rest of us, as we try to maintain control in a digital world flooded with our personal data….(More)”.