What’s the Value of Your Data?

A bizarre old Washington Post article from 2012 To solve our debt problems, let’s sell Alaska got me thinking about the value of assets – both real and intangible – and the meaning of enterprise asset “value” in 2017.

At a time when U.S. Federal debt was booming – still is – the Washington Post article proposed a cheeky solution to the then $16 trillion debt conundrum, which was to sell Alaska!

It made me think about the importance of understanding the value of asset data today and how businesses need to take steps to ensure those assets are never knowingly undersold. One way of achieving that is through an understanding of the General Data Protection Regulation, which I will come to later.

Knowing what asset value is, while never a straightforward task, used to be easier. We used to build homes on our land assets or create an asset from a physical commodity and trade it. If we wanted to look at the long term we would hold on to our asset until its value appreciated materially.

Along came the internet and the digitation of things as well as assets. Then traditional assets became information and information data became the most important commodity in the world.

The Value of Data

The Washington Post Alaska article investigates enlightening and other whimsical options that might help to reduce the U.S. Government’s national debt. At first glance it seems odd that a superpower in charge of the world’s anchor reserve currency would think like a retail business when it comes to selling assets in order to reduce debts but similar things have happened in the past.

In 1803 Napoleon agreed to sell the Louisiana Territory, including parts of 14 other states to fund war against the British. And, of course, America paid Russia $7.2m for Alaska in 1867. Looking back, both buyers can look back on a smart piece of business. It made me think of a short comment piece some time ago that questioned the everywhere-of-everything when it comes to data and cloud.

Will there ever come a point where nation states, or corporate giants would consider selling off data in a similar manner? In an environment where financial institutions are routinely fined for indiscretions and are among the most regulatory controlled organisations on the planet you certainly wouldn’t rule it out but due diligence checks would come into play – or certainly ought to.

At the same time, Nation state hacking is common, although openly challenged, and secretly practiced by most. I suspect there will come a time when solutions like blockchain will become the securest means of transactions. The problem facing CEOs and their Boards is that technology and peoples’ ability to understand the nature of the digital world as it unfurls before us is outstripping our fundamental ability to consume and adjust to those changes.

Know Your Assets

In a world of complex new financial instruments, the potential for hacking such mechanisms and forcing a collapse of many economies is a reality. The next significant corporate asset sell off could leverage very 21st century assets such as data to fuel a new type of debt class and instrument to leverage future transactions such as M&As. Access and knowledge of one’s own data in such an environment becomes far more than a simple product and marketing play, it is potentially a dealmaker or breaker.

I think humans have to reroute their brains and change their mind set from possessions in hand, to possessions anywhere, which is just not natural. The world has changed so much in the last fifty years, and the rate of change is accelerating exponentially.

The Value of the General Data Protection Regulation

Most important in our new digital world is to understand and classify the value of data assets to impose any semblance of manageable security. The EU law General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is about assuring rights of personal data to the owner, a big step in assuring we know where it is and what it is being used for.

A key thing that GDPR will bring is that organisations will now be forced to understand their data asset structure and manage it appropriately, with the owner’s rights in mind. It is down to technology and security professionals to seek better ways to assure security of personal data assets and that those assets cannot be used in anyway out of the owner’s control.

In this age of the IoT we have become used to trawling a reservoir of useful or useless information in a way that we just take for granted. Search engines have become a key part of our lives, both working and social. I have a complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica on my bookshelf; however it’s now quicker and simpler to query my smart phone without reaching up to a bookshelf groaning under the weight of 32 volumes and 32,640 pages to find relevant information.

The world has changed for better or for worse, for richer for poorer. In this new age for richer means for better data, which is the new gold standard for forward thinking businesses.

If you would like to learn more about the value of the GDPR please email me at wayne.jolly@fifthstep.com.