Records Management and data portability: Digital Shadows or Electronic Shells?

Mary Elizabeth Winblad (1895-1987) birth certi...

Mary Elizabeth Winblad (1895-1987) birth certificate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The EU is proposing a right to data portability.  How organisations respond, will have an effect on how they manage records in the future. People will be able to take their personal information from one social network organisation to another.  What this means, is that these organisations have to organise their records to make this possible.  The same demand is developing for government records with the Big Blue Button initiative. People want to be able to control whom they share their information with and how it is shared.  As data storage is relatively inexpensive, it is easier to store and transport larger amounts of information. All of these will have an effect on the future of records management.  The following are some thoughts on where this might lead and what it may mean for records management.

Just as people want to share their information, governments want to be share information for economic purposes. The UK government has a voluntary programme for companies to share consumer information.  As this blog describes, there are concerns about how the information is controlled. Customers and citizens want to be able to control their personal information.  One area of control is how they can transfer that information and manage it themselves.

I suggest that there are two options emerging. The first is the digital shadow; the second is the digital (snail) shell.

Digital Shadow?

The digital shadow idea is that the person only carries a shadow of their information.  Their records are held centrally. We have a digital “signature” or “shadow” in the records held on us and our transactions.  The person has a digital smart key that allows them to download (or access) the information.  Alternatively, the data key could act to confirm the information. The person only carries a shadow of the information because the bulk of the information is held somewhere else. For example, a person may carry around their basic identification material but the rest the government or the other organisation holds records. The programme like the Big Blue Button (link) will influence records storage and access by governments.

However, it may be that instead of a shell, we have more of a shadow using a smart data key to download data (and not carrying it) as and when we need it. Like downloading a phone app when you need and uninstalling it when you do not need it.

Digital Shell.

If we want to hold more information or are required to hold more information, does that mean we will be more like digital shells?  If we hold more, will governments hold less information?  If we hold more information, will we blur ownership and responsibility? We have passports, for example, but the government “owns” the document containing our personal information. From a data portability perspective, will we have access to the secondary documents, records or information that supports it?  For example, a number of secondary records, such as a birth certificate, residency documents and other verification information, support the passport. Will data portability mean that we can download and control those secondary documents? Only those that we have supplied are the ones we can extract. We can or will hold more and more of our own personal information and the government will hold less?

We hold a lot of personal information in smart phones. Is the future trend that we have larger digital “shell” full of personal information? If we are holding more, will we expect the government to hold less? Alternatively, does big data mean that governments and organisations can hold more information so we will be more likely to carry a digital key and not carry a digital shell?

What does this mean for records management?

Either option will have consequences for records management.  The main ones that I can see are the following in no particular order.

  1. Records will have to be organised differently because their functionality will change from the organisation’s needs to a different purpose. Taxonomies will have to adjust to reflect the change.
  2. The records will have to be made accessible in ways that corporate or government records may not be access.
  3. How documents are verified as authentic will have to be considered.  If records are transported from one organisation to another, through the customer, how they are verified as records that can be used will have to be resolved.
  4. Further issues will be about the data quality of because the records will have to be checked for accuracy and be available to be updated or changed as necessary.



About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to Records Management and data portability: Digital Shadows or Electronic Shells?

  1. lawrence serewicz says:

    Testing response


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