Last year, I helped Vibrant Data Labs produce a display video that detailed their analysis of the challenges we must overcome to insure our personal data is working for us and not against. In Davos, this video played prior to The World Economic Forum’s sessions concerning Big Data. The WEF had been hard at work on developing a set of guiding “principles” for their members.

While I was swimming in a sea of data conversations, I read in several places that data is the new oil. I see it differently. I think TRUST– not Big Data – is becoming the ultimate commodity. And if you think trust can’t be traded like a commodity then you might want to study up on Brand Equity and how it is a tangible asset on Corporate P&L statements. What produces brand loyalty? Trust produces by a promise made and kept over and over again. And man, oh man, there seems to be a shortage of trust right now, so its value is soaring, particularly at the start of each day’s news cycle. In the US we are just now catching our breath from how severely the financial and mortgage industries flunked the trust test. We have come to realize that our beloved smartphones and computers are indeed spying on us and all the data collected is helping companies large and small sell us what (they think) we want and need. I have relied on their data information for generating marketing strategies right down to the facebook ads I have produced for my clients. Thank you Axiom.

Beyond the wall of commerce, the world over, data has been used to hurt us. Dictators have used it to track down the resistance, drug traffickers have used it to silence citizen journalists. Yet us simple folk cannot see or control that data though our government has been feasting at the Big Data mining party. The question of necessity and overreach aside – most people just want to be asked nicely, explained the rules, simply and clearly and be given control. They don’t want their data to hurt them; they want it to help them. Essentially, they want to trust. And I speculate, those who give it to them will reap the rewards.

The Time Cover image is from an article written in 2011 by Joel Stein.