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Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class

"Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class." World Economic Forum, 2011.

Personal data – digital data created by and about people – represents a new economic “asset class”, touching all aspects of society. The abundance of personal data represents untapped opportunities for economic growth and social benefit; however, the barriers restricting personal data’s movement and protection need to be resolved.

Granting individuals greater control over their data is necessary to create a balanced personal data ecosystem.

The report addresses the interrelated and complex cultural, business, technology and policy trends shaping the personal data ecosystem by presenting a user-centric set of recommendations for individuals, private enterprise and policy-makers. In particular, the report suggests five areas for collective action:

1) Innovate around user-centricity and trust. The personal data ecosystem will be built on the trust and control individuals have in sharing their data. Continued testing and promoting of trust frameworks that explore innovative approaches for identity assurance at Internet scale are needed.
2) Define global principles for using and sharing personal data. Given the lack of globally accepted policies governing the use and exchange of personal data, an international community should articulate core principles of a user-centric personal data ecosystem.
3) Strengthen the dialogue between regulators and the private sector. Technologists should closely align with regulators to establish processes that enable stakeholders to formulate and update a standardized set of rules to create a basic legal infrastructure.
4) Focus on interoperability and open standards. Stakeholders should identify best practices and engage with standards bodies, advocacy groups, think tanks and various consortia on the user-centric approaches required to scale the value of personal data.
5) Continually share knowledge. To stay current, stakeholders should actively share insights and lessons learned on their relevant activities (both successes and failures). The ecosystem promises tremendous value created when individuals share information about who they are and what they know. This principle should also apply to practitioners within the development community.

Launched in 2010, the Rethinking Personal Data project is a multi-year project intended 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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