The Economist and “ecto gammat”

Remember in The Fifth Element when Leeloo threatens to shoot Korben Dallas for stealing a kiss, saying “ecto gammat”? Turns out it means “never without my permission”. A good rallying cry for personal data sharing in today’s world!

The Economist has a thoughtful article called The Data Deluge on the benefits, and the privacy risks, of making better use of the torrent of data (it mostly focuses on, but doesn’t ever say, “personal” data) being generated in all kinds of business and marketplace endeavors. My favorite part, ’cause I share this assumption with the author:

The best way to deal with these drawbacks of the data deluge is, paradoxically, to make more data available in the right way, by requiring greater transparency in several areas. First, users should be given greater access to and control over the information held about them, including whom it is shared with.

This article makes a great companion to this meaty blog post by Iain Henderson laying out a serious vision for the notion of a personal datastore as a personal data warehouse. Iain knows whereof he speaks; he’s been in the CRM business a long time, and runs the Kantara InfoSharing work group (along with Joe Andrieu, another thoughtful guy who’s passionate about this stuff). I’m lucky to have both of them on my entirely complementary User-Managed Access group, UMA serving as a technological match for InfoSharing use cases.

I tried to add a comment to the Economist article about an aspect it didn’t cover: the quality of the personal data that’s floating around. Either this commenting effort completely failed, or in the fullness of time three copies of the same comment will appear — sigh. In the spirit of using this blog as my pensieve, here’s the main bit:


Volatile data goes stale. Excessive data collected directly from people is often larded with, to put it bluntly, lies. (To acquire a comment account on this site, I was required to provide my given name, surname, email address, country of residence, gender, and year of birth. If everyone were totally honest when signing up, that’s a powerful set of facts with which to locate and track them pretty precisely. You can tell which fields are excessive by looking at which ones people lie to…) And data collected silently through our behavior is, at best, second-hand and can never know our true intent.

Privacy is not secrecy (says digital identity analyst Bob Blakley). It is context, control, choice, and respect. Ideal levels of personal data sharing may actually be higher in total than now — but more selective. And they won’t be interesting to people without offering convenience at the same time.


Wouldn’t it be great to get out of the defensive crouch of “never without my permission” and turn it into “with my permission, sure, why not, it’ll help me just as much as it will help you”?

(Any bets on whether I told the truth and nothing but the truth when I registered at the Economist site?)

Tags: , ,

2 Comments to “The Economist and “ecto gammat””

  1. Chris 16 March 2010 at 11:34 am #

    On the internet, context is constantly shifting; control is an illusion; and choice is either meaningless (because infinite) or nonexistent (often due to the network effect).

  2. […] yeah. What’s with the babbling in the post title (again)? Having seen the movie Caveman way back when, some friends and I picked up on its made-up […]