A uKnow White Paper
by Tim Woda,
co‐founder of uKnow.com, Inc.
The Decline of Online Privacy
And the rise of personal identity
management in the age of big data
Nearly every interaction someone has on the Internet adds to
an ever-growing collection of online data about them. With
the explosive growth of social networking and online tools
that help make our lives more fun and convenient, individuals
have created an online version of themselves – their digital
There are many problems that result from having a digital self
that becomes increasingly well-defined every day. Because
there is no such thing as anonymous data, businesses and
government entities are able to use anyone’s digital self to
identify the real person behind the data.
High-profile data breaches and issues arising over who
actually owns the data have raised important questions about
online privacy and the security of personal information. There
is a growing sense of fear and powerlessness among the public
as businesses and governments continue to gather more and
more personal data.
This paper discusses concerns about the loss of personal
privacy, the age of the digital self, and the future of personal
There is a sense of fear
among the public as
to gather more and
more personal data.
THE DIGITAL SELF IS
AND BECOMING MORE
DIFFICULT TO MANAGE
The Maturing Digital Self and the
Expanding Digital Footprint
The interaction between individuals and the Internet has
brought new phrases into our vocabulary – digital self and
The digital self is the amalgamation of the personal data
generated while creating, exchanging, and receiving digital
information through the Internet. Emails, texts, online
searches, photos, blog posts, requests for driving directions,
website logins, account profiles, game logins, social check-ins,
video streaming, music streaming, and financial transactions
all blend together to create a digital self that is an ever-
sharpening image of the Internet user.
Any time an individual uses social media, mobile devices, and
apps that generate GPS data they leave behind a digital
footprint. By combining bits of location data from various
sources, companies and government entities can accurately
determine that individual’s exact physical location. They can
also keep a record of where that individual has been, when
they were there, and where the will likely go next.
The Internet never forgets
The Internet records everything and forgets nothing. The trail
of data that gives birth to and shapes the digital self exists
Inappropriate public posts and photos on social media sites
like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ are there for
The digital self is the
amalgamation of the
and receiving digital
the entire world to see. Those photos and posts aren’t just on
the servers of those sites. Search engines index them and can
be found at any time in the future by anyone. Even posts and
photos that were intended to be private may be discovered.
There is no such thing as anonymous data
One of the best lessons that there is no such thing as
anonymous data comes from Netflix. In 2006, the online
video streaming company released 100 million “anonymous”
subscriber records containing movie ratings made by those
subscribers. Shortly after the release of the data, researchers
were able to identify people in the database by name, and with
a high degree of accuracy. They were able to do this even with
a small number of movie ratings.
Whether “anonymous” data is shared for well-intentioned
reasons or for profit, it is best to assume that someone
somewhere can use it to identify a specific individual.
Individuals have no control over their data
According to a report by Forrester Research, over the next few
years we will see Internet search engines, financial service
companies, health companies, entertainment companies, and
technology startups competing in a free-for-all to collect and
profit from individual’s data.
What’s missing from this equation is the individual supplying
the data. That’s because individuals do not own the data they
how the company intends to use collected data. However, the
statements make it clear that they own the data shared or
collected from users of the site.
CONSUMER DATA AS
A VALUABLE ASSET
Marketer’s Want More
and Better Consumer Data
Personal data is a valuable asset that can be leveraged, bought,
and sold just like any other traditional asset. That’s why
companies in every market space are doing everything they
can to collect more – and better – consumer data.
Personal data has enormous value. In the U.S. alone,
companies spend more than $2 billion per year on acquiring
third-party data about individuals. That amount is in addition
to the billions spent on market research and the creation of
data derived from other data.
From their point of view, companies are seeking to better
understand what consumers want and need. They believe that
the more detailed data they have, the better they will be able to
create more desirable products, become more efficient
marketers, and increase brand loyalty.
In the age of Big Data, whoever controls the personal data of
an individual controls the marketing relationship. Marketers
with more, fresher, and better data win because they are in a
better position to guess what an individual is interested in
purchasing when, why, and how. With that knowledge, they
can direct more effective marketing toward the individual.
Even though commerce fuels our economic system, the
refinement of marketing tactics must be counterbalanced by
the privacy of each individual.
In the age of Big
controls the personal
data of an individual
DATA AS A TOOL
Governments Want More
and Better Individual Data
Governments are increasingly using the data of individuals for
law enforcement and national security purposes.
All mobile devices and vehicles using GPS capabilities are
essentially tracking devices. However, citizens would never
knowingly agree to carry a government-issued tracking device.
Citizens would rebel if the government required that they
report when they made a new online friend, when they
“Liked” a friend’s photo, or where they ate lunch. No one
would stand for being compelled to deliver to the government
the content of texts, emails, and Skype calls.
Even though such requirements don’t seem realistic in a
Democratic society, governments already have access to this
information. That’s because governments can use the Internet
as a mass surveillance and intelligence-gathering network. If
they can’t access the information directly, they can easily get it
from the company’s that collect it.
In 2011, the Brookings Institute reported that because of
rapidly declining storage costs, it is technologically and
financially feasible for governments to record nearly every
phone conversation, electronic message, social media
interaction, and the movements of nearly every person and
There is an urgent need to balance the aims of law
enforcement and national security with the expectation of
use the Internet as a
The Movement Towards
Personal Identity Management
As the public becomes more anxious about privacy and the
security of their personal data, companies must respond with
personal identity management solutions.
Effective personal identity management puts individuals in
control of their identity data, transactional data, web-
browsing history, location data, and all user-created data. The
newly empowered individual will be able to decide how,
when, why, and with whom they share their personal data.
In this new data economy, personal data management will
evolve from new rules that govern how individuals,
companies, and government entities collect, use, and share
personal information. There will be clearly stated rights and
responsibilities as well as accountability and enforcement.
Fortunately, there is currently a move led by consumer
advocacy groups and forward-thinking companies in the
identity theft industry toward creating effective personal
identity management systems. There is also an increasing
consumer awareness of what’s at stake.
Companies that understand that the real value of personal
data is in how it empowers the consumer will be the leaders in
developing personal identity management systems. Those
companies will create an entirely new competitive advantage
over companies that don’t learn how to play by the new rules.
By empowering the individual with comprehensive personal
identity management systems, companies will be able to
attract users who demand privacy, security, accountability, and
a clear understanding of how their data will be used.
In this new data
data management will
evolve from new rules
that govern how
collect, use, and share
We are in the age of Big Data where companies and
government entities treat personal data about individuals as a
valuable asset to be collected, bought, sold, and used for
purposes that were never foreseen by the individual sharing
A system of personal identity management must be developed
to empower individuals to protect their digital footprint and
decide how much of their digital self they want to share.
The hallmark of a trustworthy personal identity management
system will have the following components:
Security: Personal data will be protected against both
intentional and unintentional misuse and security
Data Rights and Responsibilities: There will be easy-
to-understand statements of rights and responsibilities
that ensure the integrity of the personal identity
Accountability and Enforcement: Clear rules will
hold companies and government agencies accountable
for securing and using personal data.
A system of personal
must be developed to
to protect their digital
footprint and decide
how much of their
digital selves they
want to share.
At uKnow, we strive to help families protect their personal
data and information from being misused to invade their
privacy, impact their reputation, steal their identity, or
threaten their safety.
Our flagship product, uKnowKids, helps protect kids from the
dangers of the Internet with uniquely intelligent tools. Unlike
other parental control software, uKnowKids enables parents
to “have their child’s back” without constantly looking over
By giving parents the information they need to educate their
children about staying safe online and the access to smarter
tools to supervise them in a digital world, uKnowKids helps
make the Internet safer for kids and less intimidating for
uKnow powers smart
tools that connect and
protect digital families.