Interview: Zynapp’s Tomas Olsson on data, digital privacy and how AI is giving consumers control

 Everything we do online creates personal data, little breadcrumbs of information that are stored away by the organisations that provide our apps, services, shopping, banking, tax and more besides.  We literally leave a trail of data whatever we do.

Businesses and governments of course thrive on this information, it enables them to build up accurate pictures of us so that they can anticipate what we want to buy or how healthy we are for example. For many this creates a privacy paradox.  We like the convenience of our digital lives but find the collection and storing of our personal data beyond our control, unfair, even creepy.

A growing number of companies have flipped this around, providing apps and services that hand back control to consumers themselves by making it easy for them to make choices about who can use their data and benefit directly from that usage.  One such company is Sweden’s Zynapp.

EYE caught up with Tomas Olsson, CEO at Zynapp to find out more…

What does Zynapp do?

Zynapp is a new kind of platform that lets you connect to the apps that are important in your life. Zynapp locates your data by time, place, people and topics – just like the brain actually works. All data is collected automatically and stored in what can be conceptualised as “your private vault”, meaning a fully encrypted account.

Who are your customers?

The customers are consumer users and business users. Everyone has their unique Zynapp depending on who you are, what you are connecting and what you are doing.

What problem is Zynapp solving?

Until now has your life been spread out in apps, services and platforms leaving clues about who you are, where you are, what you love and your innermost thoughts. The more digital you get the more of your identity is “out there”, where others have control and understanding of you. Zynapp puts you back in control of the data you scatter in your everyday digital life. With the human brain as a blueprint, Zynapp stores your data on the go and lets you use and share it on your terms.

  We have always stated that we believe in a society where everyone is treated with full respect for their digital privacy.

How is machine learning central to the Zynapp platform?

AI/Machine learning is a central part for us to give our users control and understanding of their data. We call it smartness for you. Zynapp tags every footprint from different perspectives, trivial tags are tags that follow with the footprint, content tags is the understanding of what type of content the footprint has (car, people, etc), context tags is where Zynapp understands the footprint’s contextual part (project, journey etc) and manual tags associate any footprint with a specific tag.

Are you providing a value exchange to consumers? What are the main benefits?

We have always stated that we believe in a society where everyone is treated with full respect for their digital privacy — a society where the power over data belongs to the people. That means that we will provide a value exchange where the user has different keys to exchange some of their data to brands and services to get super targetted information, better services and opportunities to monetize when brands want to access you.

We see that we can do this, for our users, without giving away access to their full digital identity.

How might the value in personal data disrupt other industries like advertising?

In an era where there is a growing demand of privacy, it’s very clear that companies with business models that are relying on monetizing on users data will get problems and be the candidates for disruption. The user will be in the driver’s seat. We also foresee that the middlemen in the value chain in advertising will get problems, and be the candidates for disruption.

In terms of privacy, trust and personal data, how have consumer attitudes changed?

We can see in real life and from different surveys that the consumers’ attitudes have changed,  reaching tipping points where the users are going from concern to action. Cambridge Analytica, regulations like GDPR and all articles and discussions about the side-effects of social media, open people’s eyes and makes them push for change.

How has legislation like GDPR affected the personal data industry? Is there an opportunity for Zynapp?

Obviously, GDPR has and will keep changing the personal data industry – which is basically “all” industries since the new legislation makes responsibility in regards to processing of personal data part of central compliance in every industry. For companies like Zynapp, that have the purposes of the GDPR in their core values, this is a great opportunity to showcase how we believe all businesses should be built: with digital sustainability in mind and with great respect for our users’ ownership of their personal data.

Where is this all going? What’s your vision for the future?

Everything will be connected and your life will be dependent on that. People will realize that their data is a digital asset, and will not accept that it is sold and distributed without their active consent. Also, the future will require more intelligent and intuitive solutions to enable people to effectively find, manage, use and share those digital assets.