“Industry needs to step up and change the nature of the debate between policy makers, regulators and industry around data.” When Stephen Deadman, global deputy privacy director at Facebook, made that call for leadership at this year’s PIE 2017 conference, it wasn’t just wishful thinking - it was an indication of behind-the-scenes activity which will break cover in early 2018.
“We have an initiative with other companies that is making progress,” he told DataIQ several days later. Details are being kept carefully under wraps, but there is every reason to believe Deadman’s comment that such a push by the social network is necessary “to get critical shifts to happen more quickly.”
The shifts in question are the five which were set out in the policy paper developed by Ctrl-Shift last year, “A new paradigm for personal data”. They are moving from education to confidence, from partial to full value, from restrictive to enabling, from compliance to sustainable relationships, and from good intentions to good outcomes.
“We asked ourselves what we can do as Facebook to move faster on creating sustainable business models and innovating with data, as well as the role of data in creating value. We are at the beginning of a different model,” he said. According to Deadman’s analysis, while advertising revenue currently accounts for 99% of the value being created from data, the new paradigm will transform this model and introduce entirely new systems that will benefit companies, economies and society.
“Our interest is not in equity, it is in what we can learn.”
To help accelerate this transformation, Facebook has been supporting a raft of initiatives, including the yet-to-be-revealed coalition. One of these is the investment it made into Station F, a start-up incubator in Paris which will eventually be joined by others around the world. “Our interest is not in equity, it is in what we can learn from different makers - the learnings are very important,” said Deadman.
Facebook has long been a user of hacks within its product development, but it is now also applying this approach to building better interfaces between individuals and their data. It is facilitating a series of design jams around the world, including a mini jam during PIE and a full-scale one focused on transparency in Dublin next week, where regulators, brands and designers will all work on templates and prototypes.
Deadman explained that, “we want to build a platform to create at scale - our vision is of hundreds of these events happening globally - with a common approach so everybody can access the outputs and best practices.”
“Analogies like ‘data is the new oil’ are not right.”
A significant dimension of these jams is to pull in ideas and developers from outside the traditional data industry, “because we know the parameters of how they think”. During the next phase of its efforts to bring the new data paradigm into existence, Facebook will bring together experts to consider some of the fundamental issues.
“They will be feeding into things like, what is data in economic and social terms? We hear analogies for it, like ‘data is the new oil’, but they are not right. Data is a new thing in the economic and social mix - we need to understand how to regulate and leverage it,” he said.
Projects of this order are not only transforming our understanding of data, they are also dramatically expanding the scope of Deadman’s job. “My territory is wider than the law because data goes wider. All the work we are doing around data is more than just privacy - that is an important component, but it is only one piece,” he said.
That broadening of his agenda includes taking a global perspective that looks beyond imminent issues for the European Union like GDPR. Said Deadman: “Now, the view is about influence, power, dynamics around how we relate to data. Those are the factors that are of interest because we don’t understand them.”