Democratizing data in a 5G world

February 2, 2021 | By Dimitrios Dosis

The next generation of mobile technology has arrived, and it’s more powerful than anything we’ve experienced before. 5G can move data faster, with little delay — in fact, with 5G, you could’ve downloaded a movie in the time you’ve read this far. 5G will also create a vast network of connected machines. The Internet of Things will finally deliver on its promise to fuse all our smart products — vehicles, appliances, personal devices — into a single streamlined ecosystem.

My smartwatch could monitor my blood pressure and schedule a doctor’s appointment, while my car could collect data on how I drive and how much gas I use while behind the wheel. In some cities, petrol trucks already act as roving gas stations, receiving pings when cars are low on gas and refueling them as needed, wherever they are.

By 2025, every connected person will conduct nearly 5,000 data interactions every day — one every 18 seconds — whether they know it or not. 

This amounts to an incredible proliferation of data. By 2025, every connected person will conduct nearly 5,000 data interactions every day — one every 18 seconds — whether they know it or not. 

Enticing and convenient as new 5G-powered developments may be, it also raises complex questions about data. Namely, who is privy to our personal information? As your smart refrigerator records the foods you buy, will the refrigerator’s manufacturer be able to see your eating habits? Could it sell that information to a consumer food product company for market research without your knowledge? And where would the information go from there? 

People are already asking critical questions about data privacy. In fact, 72% of them say they are paying attention to how companies collect and use their data, according to a global survey released last year by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. The survey, sponsored by Mastercard, also found that while 60% of executives believed consumers think the value they get in exchange for sharing their data is worthwhile, only 44% of consumers actually felt that way.

There are many reasons for this data disconnect, including the lack of transparency that currently exists in data sharing and the tension between an individual’s need for privacy and his or her desire for personalization.

This paradox can be solved by putting data in the hands of the people who create it — giving consumers the ability to manage, control and share their own personal information when they want to, with whom they want to, and in a way that benefits them.

That’s the basis of Mastercard’s core set of principles regarding data responsibility – and in this 5G world, it’s more important than ever. We will be able to gain from these new technologies, but this change must come with trust and user control at its core. The data ecosystem needs to evolve from schemes dominated by third parties, where some data brokers collect inferred, often unreliable and inaccurate data, then share it without the consumer’s knowledge.  

Putting individuals in control of sharing their data benefits everyone. It results in more accurate information and is fully consented, which builds trust and better relationships between consumers and anyone with whom they do business.

All that data has enormous value. That’s why consumers should be able to financially benefit from proactively sharing their own personal data — effectively becoming their own data brokers.

You want to know what’s in my refrigerator? How about a discount on my groceries? Or a promotion from a local restaurant?

We’re working toward creating a consumer-centric ecosystem in which individuals grant access to their data explicitly and intentionally, in exchange for value — from a personalized offer or product feature, to loyalty points or a financial reward. Importantly, the ecosystem must enable data “interoperability,” allowing an individual to connect, control and share his or her personal data globally across organizations and scenarios. The bandwidth of 5G could enable a seamless, standard approach to data sharing. We see this type of interoperability today in payments, with cards conveniently and securely accepted virtually everywhere around the world. One system, endless options, all in the hands of the individual.

This decentralized global personal data exchange, where consumers are empowered to connect and control their data, will lead to new commercial models — from active searches conducted by shoppers to automated bidding. It stands to replace the classical targeted advertising where messages are “pushed” to consumers who may or may not be interested. Instead, consumers in the market for a new car or interested in trying a smart fitness mirror “pull” offers from merchants, a win for them and for brands whose marketing dollars are thus far more effective.

Another example is the $50 billion consumer research industry. What we’re seeing emerge today is an automated model where consumers opt in for their personal data to be used for a specific research purpose in exchange for a set payment, such as a $25 fee.

This new 5G-enabled consumer control can also help meet increasing data privacy regulations across the globe. Analytics can be run across multiple data sources in near-real-time without the need to move any raw data from their sources. This is critical for the consumer experience and consumer trust. Eventually it creates a richer data set that offers more convenience, relevance and value to everyone — from consumers to the businesses that serve them.

The value of personal data will grow just as quickly as 5G can connect it. We believe people own their own personal data, and we should empower them to capture, control and manage their data so that they are the ones who benefit from it.

Dimitrios Dosis, President, Advisors, Mastercard