I am not the product. I am much more than you think I am...

May 6, 2014
Min read

How did I get here, exactly?

When I first started working with the Meeco team four months ago, I could not have imagined how my opinion and philosophical values surrounding personal data would be dramatically flipped on it's head. Over the past four months I've had to wrestle with foreign concepts; like the fact that my personal data is actually of value to most businesses and that all of our online activity is responsible for driving the current digital economy.

Deep down I think I already knew these things to be true. But now, with my eyes wide open, I can see that the way we do business and how we engage with each other personally, needs to be re-imagined.

For me, the Internet has been a professional and personal play-thing to be explored, tested and exploited. I'm what you call an early adopter, and as a result I would have signed up and shared my personal data across thousands of websites, social networks and mobile apps. I've been flippant with the things I say, the opinions I share and unconcerned about the links I've clicked, read and distributed as reflections of my curated self. Looking back on it all I can see that I have left a long and toxic digital trail that stretches out behind me like oil from a leaky tanker. And yet none of it actually represents the real me.

It wouldn't be so bad if it was just my personal information that I've freely given away willy-nilly, but now that I'm married with kids, I've posted images and videos of them so carelessly that I've potentially put them and their future social status at risk.

And to make matters even more interesting, I've managed to build a career in digital marketing by exploiting the trail we all leave online. Whether it's targeted banners ads, personalised email marketing or extracting personal information from social networking websites to create "compelling interactive experiences". I did all of these things with the best of intentions and in the belief that I was doing good deeds that would make everyone happy; my employers, my clients and their customers.

And now I'm working at Meeco - a project that could have a profound effect on the way the world operates. Not just at a web-services layer, but at as part of a fundamental shift in how we see the value in our selves, our kinetic and intellectual data and how we engage with companies, governments and the people we know and love.

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What on earth am I talking about?

One of hardest parts of promoting a new product/service in an entirely new and rapidly evolving business category is finding the language and reference points that everyone can relate to.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I likened the experience to inventing fire and then having to visit a neighbouring tribe and explaining what it is, how it worked and what it meant to the future of humanity. You can imagine their Neanderthal expressions as I danced and grunted enthusiastically like a mime in a straight jacket.

When we explain the concept of Meeco, some people get the idea straight away and want to know where they can get their hands on a version. Other people become very defensive as this new way of thinking challenges their status-quo. Mostly the reaction is one of blissful ambivalence with people not sure how to process the idea or apply it practically to their lives. And that's okay. As a business we realise that it takes a lot to absorb and these new concepts and it's instinctual to be resistance to new ideas. We hope that over time, and through experiencing things for themselves, people will start to realise the scope and potential of having their data liberated.

It will be far easier to understand when we have Meeco available to the public so that people can feel and experience the possibility in their hands. I remember a time when it was difficult to explain why people needed to create a Facebook account why you might need to be on Twitter. It seemed absurd at the time and yet now it's deeply entrenched in the day-to-day of our lives. Yeah, I was that guy.

As a society we entrust our personal and private information to websites, governments and businesses all over the world, and for the most part, we don't really know where or how that information is being used. It could be used for good or it could be used for evil.

We assume that our data is being used to improve our quality of life; providing us with more personalised and refined products, bonuses and rewards for our brand loyalty and access to amazing tools like Facebook, GMail and even freemium tools like Spotify. We rarely acknowledge that the companies we entrust our valuable information with are really only interested in their own profitability, and that means that our personal data is their most valuable asset. "But we get all this cool stuff for free!" is the usual response I hear, but nothing in life is free, it's our data that is powering big data, modern commerce and the social economy.

At this point I could go on an even bigger rant about how our data could be used against us, whether it's your transaction history being sold by your loyalty card provider to insurance companies so that they increase your premiums or even just how disgusting and invasive targeted advertising and social networks have become. Let's not have this conversation today. I want to talk about hope.

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How is this relevant to me?

The bigger opportunity is what we could do if we also had access to the same information that we currently give away, and can we have a more collaborative relationship with the companies we want to engage with.

What if I could capture my digital footprint and mash it up with other devices from the Internet of Things (IoT) such as my browser history, my Fitbit data and track it against my sense of well being? What if I could then use those insights to approach my health insurer to negotiate better premiums? What if my car knew when I was driving it and automatically logged the travel distance and fuel costs against so I could more easily claim it at tax time? There is a lot being written about the Internet of Things but the core problem remains the same, who owns the data and how can we access it for our own means? I mean, we created it, we should own it and be able to use it however we want.

Life hacking is something we've always done, from the moment we invented fire and realised we could improve our digestion by cooking raw meat. I prefer to think of it another modern survival technique. We can't go back to the way things were before we gave it all away but we can create a better future, starting now, for us to evolve in to.

How can I make it real?

In the meantime, people much smarter than me and who have been thinking about this stuff for a long time, are collaborating on ways to make concepts like Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) into more relatable phrases like First Person Technology or Privacy First Products. At Meeco, we believe that this new movement rightfully restores the individual at the heart of the economy which is why we use the term MeCommerce² or more broadly as the MeEconomy³. And within that, Meeco is part of a new category which is being referred to as Life Management Platforms.

I believe we are on the cusp of a monumental shift in how the world economy operates but it could go one of two ways; either the corporates govern the world and we become slaves to their control and ownership of our data (It's not really that far fetched), or we, the citizens of the world, own our own data and we decide who has access to it and how it can and should be used.

Taking everything we've learned from talking to our friends, family, business partners and even pitching the idea to strangers, this is how we came to create the video.

It's also why I Am Meeco.

Meeco is a life management platform that gives you the confidence to capture, mashup and share your personal with security and portability. Assume your right to data sovereignty and be rewarded by the MeEconomy. Experience Meeco⁴ today to be the first to access Meeco when it launches in the coming weeks.


¹ This web page is no longer available. To view an archived copy click here.

² This web page is no longer available. To view an archived copy click here.

³ This web page is no longer available. To view an archived copy click here.

⁴ This web page is no longer available. To view an archived copy click here.

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