I really believe that if we do privacy right, users will see that having information about themselves subject to certain principles is very helpful. When you leave a store, you won’t say, “Hey, if I ever come back in here, don’t recognize me and don’t remember what I bought before. Just forget I was ever here.” That’s kind of extreme.
Can information storage ever work on behalf of the user? The fact is, it does. There are some things such as medical or tax records where the rules are going to be very black and white – it will be kept totally under the user’s control. But there are things such as patterns of purchasing behavior that can be used on your behalf – in some cases in a way that it’s not correlated back to you specifically. It’s blind.
Your email inbox has sort of become this open-ended thing, like your phone ringing all day long and random calls coming in. We have to use software to let people get back in control of that. When you know you have control, you can feel more comfortable about giving out your email address.
Say you give it to a business that lets you know about new luxury cars you might be interested in. If you ever change your mind, you just go to your information agent and declare that. It either goes into a lower priority folder or it goes into the bit bucket.
Every aspect of our business at Microsoft, for example, is completely different today, and yet the core principles of being good at creating platforms, at writing software will stay the same. The product expertise, core competence, is the same. Businesses will just have to get it out to the world in a different way. They might be able to drop some of the things they’ve done internally.
I sit down with executives in new and old businesses and talk through this. That’s a huge part of my job. Lots of examples reach down into small businesses. Say you are someone who offers things around a wedding type service.
What the customer really wants is much more aggregated than individual offerings, so how can you create a set of companies to do those aggregations without getting the complexity and the bureaucracy that come from actually putting all those businesses together? The Internet lets you do that.