Many people are concerned, maybe even angry, about the way a few corporations harvest, analyze, and profit from our personal data. But have you ever wanted to just turn the tables on BigTech? How about if we got paid for handing over our data? This, and more, was discussed in the latest episode of the GoodTech Vidcast, together with Shane Green, the US CEO of Digi.me, and chair and co-founder of UBDI. Visit our YouTube channel to watch the full episode, or read a recap down below!

Digi.me and UBDI

We ask Shane to tell us about Digi.me. First and foremost, he says, Digi.me allows users to take back control over their data. It lets people aggregate their own data from apps and accounts that they use. “Digi.me is integrated with about 15 000 different sources out there, so we’re talking financial, health, entertainment, and of course all the social data you’re creating,” Shane tells us. “It lets you aggregate that data in a place that you choose, and then re-use it however you choose, primarily with apps and services that are designed to respect your control of the data.”

Shane is also the chair and co-founder of UBDI, so we ask him to explain how it differs from Digi.me. “So, digi.me is really the infrastructure, or a platform, for apps and services that play by these new rules and this new architecture. UBDI, which stands for Universal Basic Data Income, is specifically designed to help people monetize insights from their data. Helping people to participate in the economics of their data in the world of research was super interesting to me,” Shane explains.

Getting a little deeper into privacy, Shane tells us that Silicon Valley and BigTech are betting on the fact that people won’t engage with the kinds of tools that allow them some degree of control and agency over their data. He mentions that research shows that helping people understand that there’s incredible economic value to their data — potentially worth thousands of dollars a year — is a fundamental game changer. Shane tells us, “People starting to take control over their data benefits [the fight for] privacy. We’re getting all of those apps to start coming directly to us as individuals for data, instead of tracking us behind the scenes.”

A digital enlightenment

We’ve heard Shane talking about a digital enlightenment, and ask him what that means to him. He tells us that the path we’re on right now is pretty terrifying. We’re going back as fast as we can to a world where we have limited, if any, rights around how our data is captured, and how it’s being used to manipulate us. “I believe in order for us to get to a place where we are being treated with respect and dignity in this digital world, and our data is being used on our behalf to benefit us as individuals, we have to have something happen where the power of data shifts to people fundamentally,” Shane says.

“What’s terrifying to me is that the business model is so fundamental now, for the survival of these companies. I get frustrated at people who talk as if there’s still a choice to get off the grid and go back 20 years in time. Somehow just ignoring technology and data, is not a reality the future I want, candidly. But we do have to jump on this moving train and figure out how to innovate and fix things.”

We constantly hear people say that no one cares about their data, and therefore don’t care about their privacy, either. Shane tells us that the fact that people haven’t chosen alternatives to BigTech in great volume yet is not evidence that people don’t want it. “Post 2016, people at a much broader scale have come to understand the risk of this current model,” he says. “Solutions like DuckDuckGo are not very far behind Google. It’s gotten incredibly good. Services like that are starting to adopt new ways of personalizing those search results while protecting privacy. There’s a leap frog opportunity here to go completely over Google, not only on the functionality but even on the business model.”

As we come to an end of our chat with Shane, we ask him about his thoughts on the future. He tells us, “I’m an optimist. What choice do we have? Every generation has had its existential threats. We have to figure this out. I really don’t think we have a choice.”

We agree. Even if we, as individuals, aren’t on the same page about everything, we can all agree that it’s vital to take a stand, for the sake of human rights.

Interested in seeing more of GoodTech? See it LIVE every other Thursday at 6pmCEST, or watch the previous recordings on our YouTube channel!