George Derfamos speculates on the roles ‘infomediaries’ might play in the network economy. It is an attractive and stimulating idea – to have a trusted (read extremely trusted) third party that:
“you trust with your personal data and who’ll guarantee you the level of privacy you seek. it’s someone who’ll play suppliers/vendors against each other in order to buy things on your behalf at the best price available (it’ll aggregate its clients’ purchasing power to get the best deals). it’ll offer you personalised information, ads (indeed, it may even pay us real money to be exposed to these ads), products and services.”
A service provided by UK based firm ‘i am moving’ gets close to this idea (disclosure: although I consulted for ‘i am moving’ at my previous company a few years ago, I hold no other interest here).
The idea struck me at the time (’98?) as a winner and I still think it has great potential. The company provides an infomediary service in the purest sense and the proposition is simple: You give it your personal data, once. When you move from one home to another you give permission to the company to act on you behalf to update all your suppliers (gas, phone, bank, etc – even the government!) with your change of details. The suppliers love it (they spend fortunes trying to chase/clean data), the customers love it.
Two central themes to the infomediary concept are managability /usability and trust. On managability: you decide who gets the data, who should erase it and when, and what is can/can’t be used for – all managed in one place…and now that you have your data there, why not continue to manage this personal data here…
The other is trust. This will be hardest nut to crack and the attribute will increasingly become the most important for many service providers. It won’t matter how good your service (especially online) might be, or how great the experience you deliver, if you don’t trust the provider you’ll be unlikely to use them (the relevance of relationship marketing, brand, awareness, values and actual ‘entity’ behaviour kicks in here…).
This is where the potential of the future infomediary comes in:…you may not have to trust all those companies, instead you could let your ‘privacy maintenance service provider’ (new acronym: PMSP) – a utility almost – to act, purchase, interact and transact on your behalf, even anonymously (i.e. the ‘PMSP’ becomes your agent). …(I remember Kevin Kelly writing along these lines in ‘Out of Control’)
(If anyone knows of other pure-play ‘infomediaries’ already doing this sort of thing successfully, please point them out! Thanks.)