Personal Data: how to make it a viable, customer-centred industry

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Summary:  For ‘Personal Data’ to realize its potential as a new class of economic asset there needs to be a global, cross-industry approach that empowers and protects consumer users, enables businesses, and that has scope for appropriate governance. This report is a summary of the significant progress made towards this aim made by the World Economic Forum’s Re-thinking Personal Data ‘Tiger Team’, facilitated by STL Partners with the support of the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, MIT Media Lab, Microsoft, Ctrl-Shift and other leading experts, at meetings held in March 2012 in San Jose, and in London in July 2012.

WEF Personal Data Principles draft June 2012

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We will be looking further at the role of Personal Data as an element of the strategic transformation of the telco industry at the invitation only Executive Brainstorms in Dubai (November 6-7, 2012), Singapore (4-5 December, 2012), Silicon Valley (19-20 March 2013), and London (23-24 April, 2013). Email  or call +44 (0) 207 243 5003 to find out more.

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The World Economic Forum has been running a ‘Re-thinking Personal Data’ project (RPD) for the last two years, which is about how ‘personal data’ can be turned into a new class of economic asset. As a part of its Global Agenda Council on ICT, the Forum recently established a ‘Tiger Team’ – a group of international experts - to drive forward some of its key technical and legal recommendations for strengthening the flow of permissioned data. The aim of this group is to stimulate the creation and adoption of frameworks which support the key principles of trust, transparency, control and equitable value distribution throughout the personal data ecosystem at global scale.

STL Partners was asked to organise the Tiger Team’s activities, which have focused on a series of workshops, starting in March 2012 in San Jose, California, and in June 2012 in London. These workshops included significant input from, and collaboration with, the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium and MIT Media Lab and, in London, with consultancy Ctrl-Shift.

The initial meeting in March (kindly hosted at Ericsson’s labs) gathered 40 experts - from MIT, AT&T, Verizon, Microsoft, SAP, World Economic Forum, Ericsson, Frog Design, Personal, Reputation, Cisco, Experian and others, with the following aims:

  1.  To discuss a common, shared language/taxonomy/terms of reference for describing the Personal Data space.
  2. To share latest examples of important new international developments, use cases, architectures and best practice in key areas and sectors (consumer, corporate and government).
  3. To agree how to ‘slice the elephant’ in terms of coordinating next steps for improved international collaboration in a few high impact areas, from a Business, Legal and Technical point of view.

At the subsequent meeting in Central London on 14th June (co-hosted with Ctrl-Shift), the team gathered input from the European market to further develop these concepts.

This note summarizes the significant progress made.

WEF Photo 1 - Simon Torrance and some of the Personal Data 'Tiger Team'

San Jose Workshop in action (More photos here:

Relevance to Telcos

The appropriate use of personal data is of critical importance to telcos in the following ways.

1.      Personal Data supports the successful operations of a telco with in areas such as billing, direct marketing and customer care. Advanced applications can enable enhanced customer applications, relationship building and personalisation of services, and support the better understanding of customers and business dynamics, including advanced analytics.

2.      It also enables new value building services which can be for customers themselves (such as ‘Personal Data Stores’), and/or by monetizing aggregated sets of customers’ data to third parties. Examples include aggregated traffic and footfall data, viewing and content preferences by segment, etc. Certain ‘Telco 2.0’ business models also use APIs to convey elements of personal data for purposes such as identification and authorization in third business processes.

3.      Finally, personal data has been described as the ‘oil of the new digital economy’, and will be central to most digital commerce business models, such as mobile advertising and payments. Many industry players will wish to trade in this market, with the internet giants, banks and financial services companies and retailers also being key players. Telcos need to understand how to participate effectively in this evolving ecosystem.

About the Workshops

  • Description and Purpose: Working meetings of specially-invited industry executives and subject matter experts from the field of ‘Personal Data’ to review the latest outputs from the World Economic Forum’s Re-thinking personal Data project and contribute to the development of international cooperation and best practice.
  • Participants: Experts/leaders from across the emerging Personal Data ecosystem, specifically from the telecoms, retail, financial services, media, advertising, government and technology sectors, comprising a mix of commercial, legal/policy and technical functions. Participants included execs from: Acxiom, Atigeo, AT&T, Barclaycard, BBC, BT, Bupa, Call Credit, Ctrl-Shift, Ericsson, Experian, Frog, iAllow, John Lewis Stores, Office of Fair Trading, Nectar, Mastercard, Microsoft, MIT Media Lab, Moneysupermarket, Mydex, Ofcom, Ofgem, Orange Group, Personal,, SAP, STL Partners, SWIFT, Synergetics, Telco 2.0 Initiative, UnboundID, UK Government (Cabinet Office, Mi-Data and Open Data Initiatives, Business, Innovations and Skills), Verizon, Vodafone Group, World Economic Forum.
  • Format: Facilitated working groups, stimulated by new market analysis, looking at commercial, technical and policy issues and opportunities. Chatham House rules applied.
  • The Business workgroups looked at new service opportunities from applying new approaches to Personal Data in the ‘commerce’ value chain (advertising, retail and payments).
  • The Legal/Policy group progressed discussions from San Jose looking at creating a common, global Terms of Service and ‘Code of Practice’ that adhere to WEF RPD principles, local laws and can be internationally applied for any business.
  • The Technical workgroup progressed discussions from San Jose around developing a universal Personal Data Rights Language (PDRL) to enable rights/permissions to be embedded into code.
  • Simon Torrance, CEO of STL Partners, designed and facilitated the workshops. Kaliya Hamlin, from the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, Scott David, from Washington University’s Business School, Dazza Greenwood from MIT Media Lab, Drummond Reed from the Respect Network, Marc Davis and Caroline Nguyen from Microsoft, Bill Hoffman from World Economic Forum, and Liz Brandt, Alan Mitchell and Paul Smith from Ctrl-Shift stimulated and helped facilitate the meetings and working groups.

  • For more information on the Tiger Team please contact .

Executive Summary

Following on from work in San Jose in March, the Personal Data Principles have been updated as follows. 

WEF Personal Data Principles Draft June 2012

Source: WEF Personal Data ‘Tiger Team’, June 2012 – Updated, Courtesy Caroline Nguyen, Microsoft

At the London meeting, further productive discussions outlined:

  • Descriptions of the Industry Ecosystem, including consumers, business participants, governance, and further business use cases within the system.
  • An outline legal ‘Trust Framework’ system, with appropriate precedents, that enables the development of systems globally that can be aligned cross-borders and across industry boundaries.
  • A technical approach, the ‘Personal Data Rights Language’ (PDRL) that provides a means to translate rights and duties across varied systems and data.

Next steps include:

  • Further communication and refinement of the Industry Ecosystem descriptions.
  • Further development and detailing of the legal Trust Framework system.
  • Proof of concept of PDRL.

To read the note in full, including the following additional analysis...

  • Guiding Principles
  • The Market: evolving use cases
  • Industry Structure: the Personal Data Landscape
  • Legal: creating a bridging framework
  • Technical Stream: creating a universal language
  • Personal Data Rights Language (PDRL)
  • Next Steps

...and the following figures...

  • Figure 1 - A Selection of Other Legal Principles and Guidelines Examined
  • Figure 2 - Updated draft of the WEF Personal Data Principles
  • Figure 3 – The emerging landscape of uses
  • Figure 4 - The Personal Data Landscape
  • Figure 5 - The ‘BLT’ Approach – Business, Legal, Technical Mapping
  • Figure 7- ’System Rules Architecture’ for Legal Frameworks
  • Figure 7 – Rough Example of PDRL ‘Mark Up’ Language
  • Figure 8 – WEF Personal Data Milestone Roadmap

...Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service can download the full 16 page report in PDF format hereNon-Members, please subscribe here. For this or other enquiries, please email  / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Technologies and industry terms referenced: Personal Data, information, World Economic Forum, WEF.