The uncomfortable truth about Andrew Yang's data proposal

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Government agencies and big companies will need to stop copying data and shift to new technologies like Data Collaboration in order to realize Andrew Yang’s vision for treating personal data as a property right.


In his latest policy post, the Democratic Party candidate has gone further than any previous White House contender to define how US citizen personal data should be collected, owned, and managed.


Some companies haven’t done enough to protect our data, resulting in breaches that have made our private information insecure. Others have sold it to disreputable companies, allowing them to target us for everything from marketing fraudulent services to influencing elections.


This needs to stop" Yang says. "The Data generated by each individual needs to be owned by them, with certain rights conveyed that will allow them to know how it’s used and protect it.”

Candidate Yang’s proposal


Yang’s right—the way data is treated currently is absolutely unacceptable. But what does he intend to do about it? Here's the summary of his proposal:

  1. The right to be informed as to what data will be collected, and how it will be used

  2. The right to opt out of data collection or sharing

  3. The right to be told if a website has data on you, and what that data is

  4. The right to be forgotten; to have all data related to you deleted upon request

  5. The right to be informed if ownership of your data changes hands

  6. The right to be informed of data breaches including your information in a timely manner

  7. The right to download all data in a standardized format to port to another platform

But read point number 5 again. It assumes that the media companies, brands, and governments who are collecting our personal data actually have control of it.


They don't.


When it comes to data, sharing is NOT caring

Data sharing is the fly in the ointment of Andrew Yang's data policy

The organizations collecting your personal data have no control over it, so any promises they make (or are regulatorily obliged to make) with regards to it are impossible to fulfill. Scary, right? How can that be possible?


It’s totally forgivable for the average US citizen to think that large organizations keep your data in a secure vault somewhere and only use it when they really need to. But the truth is that your data, once collected, gets COPIED hundreds of times to help power dozens of systems, apps, and technologies.


This process (known as Data Sharing, Data Integration and Data Virtualization) can easily consume up to 40% of big IT departments resources. These forms of data copying exist to provide the plumbing behind many everyday technologies like websites, mobile applications, dashboards, and chatbots. And it all happens because apps don’t have a shared language when it comes to data; instead, each app needs its own copy in order to understand it.


The problem is that once copies of data from millions of customers start flying back and forth between hundreds or even thousands of databases, systems, and applications, it becomes impossible to track.


Meaning that candidate Yang’s good intentions for keeping your data under control are up against a harsh reality: your data is out of control, and it will remain that way unless there’s a fundamental change in the way data works.

Collaboration for the nation


In order to deliver on Yang’s plan, data will need to evolve. Instead of the current Data Sharing / Data Integration approach of making new (and vulnerable) copies of data, the only way we’ll ever get data under control on a massive scale is to embrace the radical new approach known as Data Collaboration.


Data Collaboration takes the current application and code-driven data model and flips it on its head. Think of it as a universal language for data, one that users, programs, artificial intelligence bots, and more can use natively—without making copies.


With Data Collaboration, since there’s no more copying of data, it suddenly becomes capable to control it. There’s one source of data, not thousands of copies. With no copies, privacy controls are set at the level of the data itself, so it doesn’t matter what person or program is trying to access that data—the controls (aka privacy settings) will always be the same.


It’s a bit like replacing those hundreds of plumbing systems that power new technology with a single, unified system that can be fully controlled. With Data Collaboration, and only with Data Collaboration, Andrew Yang’s proposal becomes possible and it would just take just two steps to realize:


Step 1: Organizations powered by Data Collaboration

Companies and public sector bodies start using Data Collaboration to actually take control over the personal data they collect, enabling them to deliver on Yang’s rule #5; that they be responsible for informing people who their data is being used.


Step 2: Data Trusts powered by Data Collaboration

Citizen-lead groups support the formation of Data Trusts, where people control their data via a personal “data hub”, powered by Data Collaboration technology, and then give (or sell) access to it. This would start the process of allowing citizens to monitor the controlled use of their personal data and bring the era of “data sharing” (aka data copies) to an end.


How do we know?


At Cinchy, we have made Data Collaboration our mission. We already work with some of the World’s most complex and highly-regulated financial services organizations to help them fully-control their data.


For these companies, data is money, and money is data, so they have all the motivation they need to find new ways to manage it better.


In Data Collaboration, the technology exists today to change the way data works in order to provide full control, easier collaboration, and far better security.

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