Side-end as a replacement for back-end systems
A frustrating situation
You cancelled an account with an internet service provider. You repeatedly have them confirm that there is no remaining balance on the account and that there is a clean cancellation on the account. A month later they send you a bill saying that you have a balance remaining and you owe the non-trivial amount NOW. No problem right? You can just log in to the online account management tool and try to figure out where that balance came from. Did you underpay something? Is there some generic service or cancellation fee? But you can’t log in. They deactivated your account. Suddenly you realize how the power has shifted to the service provider. All of your account data has just slipped into a black hole. You can’t access your own records but the service provider still can. Will they ever get rid of it or will my information end up on a hacker’s computer years later? Why do I have to jump through hoops with the service provider to get MY data? How long after I cancel my account will the data be deleted like a ghostly trail of my movement through businesses?
How did this happen?
Back-end processing used to make more sense. Businesses would collect data about you in order to better serve you. They might have kept the information in forms in physical filing cabinets so it was a natural transition to treat servers as virtual filing cabinets to be stuffed with customer data. When the cost of getting your information out of a company was actually printing off copies of your information from the forms in filing cabinets it made sense to have the company keep the master copy of the data. I don’t want boxes of data sitting around my house of all the records the phone company has on me. But the cost of data is cheap today. It’s virtual and the cost of a copy is trivial compared with making physical copies. How is it then that when you ask a company for your data you can practically hear them scrambling to fire up the copy machines?
I can dream can’t I?
My dream would be for me to own the data I produce for a company. From my doctor to my shopping habits via a reward card I want full access to the data. We can share it while we are doing business but if I stop doing business with you and cancel my account then I want my data and I want you to not have it. It’s that simple. It was never your data anyway. It was your version of a digital representation of my activity in your system. It was just a convenient way to track and bill me.
I like solutions. Here’s one
To accomplish my dream we would have to teach companies to share. Easy right? The goal would be to have a third party data storage provider host the data for the company. The third party data storage would be able to give me direct access to the data. This side-end data storage would be a new model for businesses and developers. Depending on how it is implemented and what the data provider does it could open entirely new concepts of business integration and data sharing all the while putting the user in control of the data, who has access to it and how they can use it.
Just the beginning
Sure, I would love to have access to my tweets or Facebook data so I am not locked into their services. That’s just convenient. But looking at that concept and applying it to every company I do business with is more powerful for me. I’m ok with loosing tweets but when I am held personally and financially responsible for the data a company has that I helped it create I want more. I want visibility, access and control of my virtual representations.