It may be over a year since Vulture Central mentioned Paoga and it may only just be approaching launching an open Beta Test programme that anyone can sign up to – and you can here - but the reason for founder, Graham Sadd, starting the business remains. What has changed is pinpointing why potential users should be interested. Your personal information – or some of it at least - is already up for sale somewhere in the world, so why not grab a piece of the action yourself is now an underlying message. After all, it's you they are selling.
Who is "they?" Well, according to Sadd just about every company that has any information on you is a potential contributor to the multi-billion dollar business of buying and selling personal data for "targeted marketing campaigns" (aka junk mail) and similar perfectly legal activities. Other companies will pay big bucks for just about any information – the more accurate the better, of course, but any old tosh about you is worth more than no information at all.
And there is always the possibility that some of this information could also leak into more unsavoury databases run by those of an unscrupulous persuasion. The right information about an individual in those hands can prove very profitable – though rarely to the individual concerned.
So the Paoga premise remains the same – provide a secure repository for individuals in which they can store and update whatever personal data they consider worth keeping safe, and provide a means through which those individuals can control who has access to what bits of that information.
For anyone with a yen to ask the question: "OK, but why should I bother, I can keep my information secure anyway?" the answer is, in the end, pragmatism. The technically proficient (ie you, dear reader) can no doubt defend your personal information pretty well, but some of it will get out even if you never apply for supermarket loyalty cards or airline "executive club" memberships. So, pragmatically speaking, if your information is being traded – and it probably is right now whether you like it or not – why not get some money for it, while at the same time making sure it is at least accurate?
In effect, Paoga is setting up a permissions-based information brokerage between the companies that legitimately need the information and the individuals who have it. As an example, Sadd pointed to pharmaceuticals companies that are always seeking individuals of age X, sex Y and specific characteristic or illness Z, not just for marketing but also for surveys etc.
It is currently finalising the development of elements of the system, such as trusted methodologies for third party validation of personal information. Here, for example, an individual claiming a university degree could have that validated by the relevant authorities. The system already has the ability to provide a full audit trail of an individual's data and its use.
As a potentially important side benefit, Sadd does see this growing into a way of at least partially validating the individual as an extant, participating member of the here and now – for example moving towards providing some form of "approved" eSticker that could be put on an eBay vendor's details.
He also sees it having potential to provide individuals with evidence that can be presented to whichever authority is policing a specific type of information use, if any misuse occurs.
Though the company has consulted with a variety of Government Departments and quangos, Sadd does not, however, see Paoga pitching at becoming any form of officially-recognised repository for personal information.
While a there is bound to be a goodly coterie of individual early adopters keen to take up Paoga's offerings, the key to its success may in fact be found in the business marketplace. Sadd sees huge market potential for Paoga in intra-company compliance and governance applications. He sees it as playing a role in managing risk avoidance as well as many other areas of business management.
Human resources management is a particular case in point: "HR departments," he said, "can spend 50 per cent of their budgets on staff compliance issues, most of which can be managed by the staff themselves within a Paoga environment. Many HR departments could get rid of the big databases they are currently obliged to run." ®