Don't trust us, trust yourself

Summary:Search engines will one day utilize sensitive personal information (more than already) to give users the power to discover more relevant information -- even about themselves.  Storing this sensitive data causes valid security concerns from people who simply will not trust what is being done with their information.

Search engines will one day utilize sensitive personal information (more than already) to give users the power to discover more relevant information -- even about themselves.  Storing this sensitive data causes valid security concerns from people who simply will not trust what is being done with their information.  "Read our privacy policy and trust us" isn't good enough as this technology emerges, so a new model will surface that says "read our privacy policy and trust yourself".  For obvious reasons, people tend to trust themselves more than any other person or company.  And, at some point in the future, mechanisms will be in place to allow users to be in control of how their data is exposed to various services.

The trouble with a traditional search engine infrastructure is that all information -- public and personal -- is stored on a remote computer, which can send shivers down the spine of even the most loyal users.  In order for trust to keep up with technology, people will need complete control of their online tracks and personal data, like financial and health information.

Software packages like Quicken and Microsoft Money already collect and store financial information, so why do users trust this type of product more than they would trust a search engine with the same information?  The answer is that these programs store their data locally rather than somewhere on the Internet.  Keeping information on personal computers -- and having it accessible through encrypted local RSS feeds -- would enable software to easily slice, dice and mash it up to make it very useful while keeping it safe and secure.

Google Desktop, and other similar products, have already brought searching to local computers and could be the key to creating a system where private information stays that way.  Google Desktop even gives users the option to encrypt indexed data -- but why not take it a step further.  Because biometrics is becoming more popular for personal use, it is now possible to securely encrypt data with a fingerprint or retina only to be unlocked by its rightful owner.

There is one problem with storing data locally though -- it's not portable.  If private information is strongly encrypted and only multifactor security keys (such as biometrics) are used to unlock the data, there might be more comfort in storing that data remotely in the cloud.  Allowing this to happen would unlock the ability to access and share data in a portable yet secure way.  Most of this sensitive information, such as personal financial data, is already available un-encrypted behind paper walls (username / password) on bank websites being phished every day.

Locally stored information will give users the ability to harness the power of a search engine while staying in complete control of how their data is used.  Lots of previously unavailable data can now be gathered and made useful like financial information and personal medical records -- minus the privacy concerns that tend to plague companies like Google.  Would you feel more secure with your information stored locally and encrypted using biometric information?  If so, would you still feel uncomfortable storing this encrypted information remotely?  I am interested in hearing any other improvements that can be made to keep trust and technology evolving.

Topics: Big Data

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