Fighting Big Data’s Tech Titans: DataWallet

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We had the opportunity to sit down with Serafin Lion Engel from Datawallet—a digital wallet to consolidate our personal data.

Why is personal data management important? How will blockchain based data exchange transform our day to day behaviour? How can we ethically profit from our data? And most importantly, how can we wrestle with the big technology titans and regain control? These are the questions Datawallet claim to answer with their “self-sovereign” solution to data management.

Most people don’t pay attention to data ownership. Do you see that changing in the next decade?

There are a couple of catalysts. The reason why people don’t care is because they don’t know. They know something is wrong with their data, but they can’t put their finger on it. They know if they shop for shoes, they’ll see ads for shoes for the next two weeks. They know. But they just don’t understand how. Because of that lack of understanding, they don’t try to dive deep.

There are catalyst events that have occurred over the last few years that have brought the ecosystem to the forefront, which helps drive understanding which in turn drives them caring about. Visa, Playstation, Equifax, Facebook. Facebook was definitely the biggest, because, in those other hack situations, there was always an external third party who was malicious, and the results weren’t as immediate and in your face.

With Facebook, you have a situation where the third party acted completely within the constraints of their privacy policy. The result of the data abuse is the presidency—how the hell did that happen? How were they able to sway the election that way? The Cambridge Analytica thing.


How will blockchain change how people interact with their data?

You can do the entire thing off-chain, but then all the data is centrally stored and that becomes very, very dangerous. Right now, you have data in hundreds of siloes, and you’re the only entity that connects data cross-platform.

The reason why blockchain is so important in this ecosystem is that it allows us to devise a self-sovereign wallet. The data is completely stored on your own device. You can choose to share it directly with the companies you want to interact with. If that blockchain piece wasn’t there, what we are doing would be an extremely dangerous value proposition.

What is Datawallet?

A decentralized data exchange.

How will Datawallet compete with existing data exchange protocols like Ocean Protocol & APEX?

I think data exchange protocols are in their early stages and a lot of competition is actually a good thing. We all need to be innovative because time is of the essence. I welcome competition because it brings awareness to space.

We are one of the only ones that have an end-to-end solution such that we have a personal data management platform on the user side. But then we don’t just leave it at that. We productize the data in that it’s made available through an API. No raw data is ever exchanged. We have a technical advantage. My cofounder is a Stanford PHD in data science.

The second thing is our enterprise network; people who are involved as executives or investors—Mark Benihov, founder of SalesForce, arguably the most important B2B data business in the world. We have senior executives from some of the biggest companies in the market research space. And we have a giant hire which we’re about to announce in two weeks, one of the most important guys in the data space.

How does commoditizing attention make for a more streamlined customer experience?

That’s how it should be. What’s being purchased by companies is impressions. I think that ultimately this will make everything a lot more customer friendly. Commoditizing attention is one thing, but people taking their data and expressing it based on consent of the companies rather than people buying it behind their backs is the source of that. That will result in a different type of competition.

Right now, it’s based on access to resources. Facebook is great at what they do, because they have more money and they can funnel the ads in a more effective way.

Imagine with Datawallet you can take all of your Facebook, Spotify, Amazon data; you can funnel that into a new social network. Facebook can be completely disrupted. If you think, with data mobility, we go from competition based on resources to competition based on recipe.

It also goes back to how good of a relationship does a customer have with their relationships? It also incentivizes better customer service in general. Better data, better products and services, which increases their standing with their customers. It’s a virtuous cycle.

What is the single greatest barrier to the adoption of data exchange protocols?

Network effects on the enterprise side—making this actually work with existing systems. That is what everyone is trying to figure out.

Actually taking the data and making sales—I don’t want to see partnerships, but how many companies are buying data?

How do you plan to bootstrap the network with providers or requesters?

That’s where the infrastructure we have on the enterprise side—through our executives in market research, through our investments.

It takes a lot of work. It’s not sexy and it’s what’s required to make it usable for them. Usability determines liquidity.

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