Big Apple, bigger ambitions: A Personal Data Week wrap-up

Personal Data Week logo
The dust has settled after the first ever Personal Data Week in New York, but the organisers have done anything but take their foot off the gas as they gear up to make an even bigger splash in 2018.
As well as expanding the event in NYC next year, there are plans to extend the franchise to other US cities and into new overseas territories. This year’s conference also served as the springboard to launch a new industry body, the International Personal Data Trade Association (IPDTA).
Steven Schwartz
Steven Schwartz

Internet of Me caught up with Steven Schwartz, founding board member of the IPDTA, to get a debrief on Personal Data Week and hear about what else is in store.

“It all came together really well and was a tremendous success,” said Steven. “It was the first conference of its kind, taking the personal data conversation away from the traditional conversations around privacy, control and security and – while acknowledging those issues – addressing personal data from the position of value and as an asset class and the implications that has for different industries such as finance, healthcare and insurance.
“We were able to get the conversation started in a way that people understood – and it was sold out so we couldn’t be happier.”

A quick conference recap

Law firm Sullivan & Worcester hosted the first two days of the conference – spearheaded by Steven and IPDTA chair James Felton Keith – at their Broadway offices, with day one focused on the business opportunities and challenges in the personal data space, and day two covering policy and legal aspects.
The conference opened on the subject of trust with John Rose, Senior Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group, warning of the danger of focusing too tightly on compliance alone, when “trust is a competitive advantage that will shift business models”.
James Felton Keith with Joel Telpner
James Felton Keith with Joel Telpner
That theme followed through into a look at how blockchain technology takes personal data – as an asset – and puts it into a structure that becomes “quantifiable, measurable and immutable  . . . in a way we can trust” by Joel Telpner, a partner at Sullivan & Worcester.
Ad tech and digital marketing was the subject of a panel including IoM interviewee and former WPP executive George Pappachen, and Martin Gilliard, CIO at landmark New York department store Barney’s.
Sen Tim Kennedy with Personal Data Week's James Felton Keith
Sen Tim Kennedy with James Felton Keith
The legal and regulatory discussions were kicked off by New York Senator Tim Kennedy, who introduced a bill to ban ISPs from selling customers’ personal data, following President Donald Trump’s move to overturn such protections.
“You look at what’s being done in Europe and Canada and you see that their privacy rules are much stronger than we have here,” he told delegates.
“I believe this is a human right – a privacy right,” he added. “It’s personal data.”
The Senator wasn’t alone among conference speakers in expressing something approaching envy for Europe’s impending GDPR and a real desire to see something similar at the federal level in the States.
Ted Claypoole, partner at Womble Carlyle lawyers – who has also given an interview to IoM – lamented Americas instinct for litigation, saying “Europeans have a rights-based model whereas we have a harm-based model”.

Back to the future

To round off Personal Data Week, ten companies then featured in an Innovation Showcase – kicked off with a presentation by Internet of Me – on the final day at eBay’s Manhattan offices.
“We packed a lot into three days,” said Steven. “Now, our plans for future are to take the conversations we started at this inaugural conference and expand on them regionally and dive deeper, industry by industry. I really think that’s going to attract a stronger presence and get more people and institutions to understand how they can participate in this new economy.
This was the first Personal Data Week and so we had to define and create that base to expand upon. That means there was a lot of content and a broad range of topics for people to comprehend.”
Future events will see content broken down into parallel topic tracks to allow for greater specialist sector focus.
“Over the course of the next year we also plan to start doing smaller, individual events,” said Steven, “even if it’s just for a couple of hours one night in New York City – that might be geared around, say, finance, insurance or healthcare. That way we can gather a following and understand what questions the relevant sector has and where they see the industry going.
“We ultimately want this to be a community that people engage in and that’s really the premise of what the Trade Association is about.”
There are plans in place for Personal Data Week events at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, and in Silicon Valley.
“We’ve also had interest from groups in Canada, London, Estonia and Chile so we’ve really gathered this world-wide presence,” said Steven. “It certainly helped having speakers from four continents participate in New York this year, but we’re really seeing this become a global conversation now.
“I would like to thank Sullivan & Worcester for hosting the inaugural Personal Data Week and eBay for hosting the Innovation Showcase, and, of course, the team at the IPDTA.”