Personal Information is Personal Property

Yesterday I attended a lecture at the Dutch Society of Information Architects (GIA), called "Personal Information is Personal Property". The lecture was given by Paul Jansen and Pieter Wisse.

The main point in the lecture was that information about a person (or a company) which is now stored in many places, should be owned by the person the information relates to.

Today it is not unusual to have (partial) information about persons stored in hundreds of places. It is out of reach for the person the information is about. My name and address are stored at many places, without me knowing, where the information is not necessarily correct and without me being out of control on what happens with this information.

Jansen and Wisse stated that information is always connected to the context in which the information has value. If the information is used without its proper context, problems arise. Fro instance, my salary is different for my employer, for the tax agency and for my wife. The context makes information have a meaning.

People should be much more restrictive in exchanging information about them. If one wants to buy a bottle of liquor, one must identify himself to let the shop owner know his age is above 18. Usually people show their drivers license or a passport. This gives the shop owner much more information than he needs. My passport shows not only my birth date, but also my place of birth, my nationality, my social security number, etc. The shop owner only needs to know my age. It would be much better if there was a way to exchange the information on my age only, without presenting unnecessary information.

Jansen and Wisse want to radically alter the complete system of information exchange, and regulate per law that information about a person can no longer be stored and used by others (just like it is regulated for material possessed by persons). The person must become the owner of his own information (just like he is the owner of his own money) en he should decide every time if-, when- and what information he exchanges in which context.

We are talking about a new information management paradigm, which is stated in the so-called Dot-i Charter.

The lecture raised much discussion and questions in a room with 25 information architects. Paul Jansen is an excellent presenter who answered many questions and started many discussions. It was a very interesting evening and gave me much food for thought.

This entry was posted on Friday 09 May 2008

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Sjaak Laan

Recommended links

Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization
Eltjo Poort's site on architecture


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