The Need to Rethink Personal Data Handling

Gustav Corpas
3 min readMay 5, 2023
Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

Have you ever received an old-fashioned letter? I know, it seems archaic, but bear with me. It’s a great analogy. For us young readers (myself included), think of a letter like a physical email, sent to your address through the postal service.

Eventually, a mailman delivers it to you, and those mail slots on your door or mailbox by the road are the devices listening for new mail. Mail slots are fantastic because they allow letters into your house while keeping the postman out.

Now, imagine a world without mail slots. You’re lounging on your couch, just chillin’, when suddenly a wild mailman appears! He’s got a letter, but instead of slipping it into your trusty mail slot, he barges into your house and starts rummaging around like a raccoon in a dumpster.

In this scenario, the postman should do only one thing: enter your house, put down your letter, and leave. However, there’s a lot the postman could do. He could rearrange your furniture, grab a few of your possessions on the way out, or even forget to lock the door behind him.

Needless to say, this is a terrible system. We’d need all sorts of legal complexities and system checks to make it work even somewhat effectively. But here’s the kicker: we’ve essentially designed a lot of internet services this way! Online payments being one of them.

From Landlords to Service Providers

Let’s talk payments! You know the drill, right? You hand over your credit card information to a payment provider who then plays middleman, making payments on your behalf when it is requested by the service provider

If you ever want to stop paying, you have to go begging the service provider to stop taking your money. Additionally it is horrible for privacy, as payment providers end up processing a lot of personal transaction data.

This is a lot different from, say, how you might be paying rent each month. You pay that directly to your landlord, right? Your landlord should then make sure you’ve made the correct payment each month and take actions based on this.

Imagine if online services worked in the same way. Instead of trusting private companies with your credit card details and putting up with all…

--

--

Gustav Corpas

I write about technology and society. Or anything that is interesting to me.