Facebook's rollout of its new Timeline interface made plenty of waves both in the media and across the Facebook user base. But I'm most fascinated by how Timeline plugs in to Facebook Connect to create a new class of empowered consumers who are willing to share their personal data with marketers in exchange for convenience, a personalized experience, and value.
Imagine this: I'm in the market for a new car, and I know a friend recently purchased a Subaru she's enamored of. Via Timeline, I can explore her decision-making process, the feedback she got from her friends while she was car-shopping, and use that insight to inform my own decision. I can check up on the dealership she used via its own Facebook page, and even send it a message to let it know I'm in the market. All sounds straightforward, right?
Now I'm ready to make a purchase, and I've shared my interest with a couple of different dealerships. I want those companies to make me an offer, and I don't want to haggle. What if there were a way for me to share, securely, all the relevant bits and bytes about myself in one shot, to all the dealers, without having to fill out dozens of forms in triplicate? If I hook in to my bank, insurer, and auto mechanic via Facebook Connect, there is.
Soon, a number of relevant offers come in, and I make my decision. Because my identity is verified via OpenID Connect, I can digitally sign a purchase agreement and send offer-rejections where appropriate. My purchase is complete, without ever having had to put pen to paper, and without ever exposing my sensitive financial information to questionable data processers. I was never inundated with expensive advertising that had no relevance to my needs or interests, and the dealers who received rejections know not to keep spending money targeting me.
We're closer to this reality than most people imagine. We call this mode of sharing, using and managing data "Personal Identity Management" (PIDM) and have just published an extensive report on the topic. The emergence of PIDM upends our traditional ideas of digital privacy, and is already spawning a nascent industry to manage the data and relationships between consumers and marketers.
Operationally, PIDM is comprised of two components: personal data lockers (PDLs) and authorization managers (AMs). A consumer's multiple PDLs — imagine one for health data, another for financials, a third for retail purchases, for example — will all be connected via the individual's chosen web- or app-based portal (the AM). Consumers will use the portal to update, manage, and validate data, and to approve data requests from marketers, service providers and other individual users.
Strategically, businesses will need to embrace five key concepts if they want to engage with consumers in a meaningful way. First, they need to write new privacy policies in plain language, and provide more fine-grain control over the data the consumer shares. Second, they must shore up their security policies, from both a technological and governance perspective. Third, they need to be transparent about their data collection and use, and enable consumers to correct or delete data at will. Fourth, they must make consumers' data portable so that it's a) usable by other digital properties, and b) available for the consumer to receive a copy of. Finally, companies need to reconsider consumers' role in the economics of data sharing. They will be financially accountable to individuals for abuses of data, and they'll need to provide some value or reward incentives when consumers do share.
While early discussions around identity and personal data have been led by consumer rights and privacy advocates, some forward-thinking industry leaders have picked up on the need for, and inherent value in, a standardized system of data sharing between themselves and consumers. Even the World Economic Forum has recognized the need to rethink global standards of personal data and identity management, and recently published a report entitled "Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class."
Already, we're seeing early movement into aspects of PIDM from several vendor categories. Consumer data giants like Experian and Acxiom are already thinking about ways to reach consumers for identity and data verification. Meanwhile, "reputation management" firms like Reputation.com and VC-backed start-ups like Personal.com and Azigo are getting consumers used to the idea of collecting, curating, and correcting their digital footprints.
Today, far too few business leaders believe that consumers are ready, willing and able to take on the labyrinth of personal data. Facebook Connect, Google Circles ,and the increasing popularity of digital reputation management services prove that they are.
So what does this mean for executives? First, far deeper collaboration between CMOs and CIOs; technology and marketing are extremely interconnected in a PIDM world. Then, execs need to re-evaluate their analytics and data acquisition efforts to ensure they're not left behind when traditional data management processes change. Finally, they must deliver brand messaging that conveys trustworthiness, respect for consumers, and commitment to providing value in exchange for data.