Personal Information Gatekeepers as a Business Line


Future Tech

By Tim Cook

Today personal data is both more accessible and more valuable than ever before. Certainly, cybercriminals are driving both companies and consumers to go take extraordinary measures to their data. But the increasing monetization of data could put more people in the mindsets of controlling access to their personal information—or at least the most valuable and current personal data.

One futuristic business concept mirroring the traditional banking is forming around the warehousing and controlled sharing of personal information. One company called Personal Inc. in Washington, D.C., is already doing business as an online vault people use to store and control the release of their personal data, files and images. The company offers what it calls “secured sharing,” where its customers can control the release of their information.

A similar but expanded concept could easily be applied to banks as well, where one day banks could become not just trusted financial and transaction intermediaries for their customers but also intermediaries of their customers’ personal information. Certainly, banks could profit by keeping and managing all of a consumer’s financial accounts, from demand deposit accounts to personal and business loans to retirement and investment savings. But banks could potentially further profit by collecting fees to serve as exclusive gatekeepers and warehouses of personal information on behalf of their customers—as the Googles and Facebooks of the world are quietly trying to do.

This expanded business model for banks as information intermediaries could involve consumers paying companies, quite possibly predominantly banks, to securely store and possibly release in controlled or limited bits of personal data for their customers. The model could involve holding everything from fixed information such as birth dates to fluid information such as shopping habits or political views or other information many marketers crave.

This information warehousing role could lock down certain personal data entirely, if that’s what a customer wanted. However, banks could also release certain information at the direction of their customers, perhaps even in real-time during a shopping spree. They could possibly be the gatekeepers to their customers or share aggregated data on their customers for marketers and pollster to purchase,

It’s a slight concept leap for banks, but the jump from serving as traditional money vaults to modern-day information vaults wouldn’t be far. Money is already become mostly denominated, digitized information. And banks already have the technological foundations, embedded expertise and traditional cultures to make the transition to this expanded role.

Tim Cook is ICBA’s senior vice president, publications.