Interview with Steven Wilkinson

Steven, how did you come to TRUSC?

A friend – Stephan Kowalski, who has known Michael for some time and serves as his sparring partner – got me in contact with Michael Frautz. He invited me to a meeting, obviously because he thought I could contribute with my expertise in building business models. Michael talked about the grievances he saw in the digital world and his idea of building a business model on this. Even though I am not at all familiar with IT, I understood his motives. At the ethical level, there was considerable agreement between us. This convergence of values made us think about working closely together.

In other words, you weren’t really aware of the issue beforehand?

To a certain degree. Of course, I was aware of data misuse and the workings of some of the large corporations, but as a user or affected person I had not drawn any conclusions from this so far. I am obviously not the only one with this attitude. A study will be published in the next few days that will focus on the sensitivity of consumers to the issue of data security. The author has divided the world into four groups: The “ignoramuses”, who have no awareness of the problem, the “apathetics”, who know about the problem but do not take any action, the “invalids”, who are willing to defend themselves, but do not know how. And finally the small group of “radicals who have the knowledge and the know-how and use it. So far I belonged to the apathetic group with a tendency towards the invalids. I see the problems, but personally I don’t yet know exactly how to defend myself. If I have to install a password generator on my smartphone, I usually fail by the time I reach the third input mask. Then I give up because I don’t have that much time. It’s not so important to me that I pick up the phone and call a privacy consultant for help. That will probably change over time.

And why have you become so involved in the issue after all?

After we got to know each other for the first time, things happened very quickly. First we planned a detailed, small group workshop in which we thought about the structure of the business model. That was very efficient and I got deeper insights into the topic, which fascinated me more and more. Two days after the workshop I received an email from Michael. He had just heard about an important conference on data security, the My Data Conference, to be held a week later in Helsinki. He asked me if I could go there. I took a closer look at the topic of the conference and found it exciting. “I can,” I wrote back. I spent a week in a small town in Finland which I had never heard of before. New horizons opened up for me there. I learned that the organizing community My Data is a young, highly dynamic organization, which deals exactly with the ethical / socio-political topics, which we discussed in our group around Michael Frautz.

What do you think is the main problem here?

The Internet has been effectively colonized by a few companies. They have become successful because they offer solutions that have satisfied original needs: Google with its algorithm that makes it possible to find things, Facebook with its algorithm that allows people to network with each other, Amazon with its algorithm that allows people to buy cheaply and compare prices. These are just a few examples of other large data monsters that hold us captive and abuse us without us really knowing it. From my political as well as from my philosophical attitude, I find this unbearable. This is profoundly opposed to my understanding of the inviolable values of civil freedom and individual self-determination.

Which direction is the data security movement moving in, do you think?

In my opinion, a powerful wave is building up right now. A wave of attention, interest and need for privacy of data. “Data and Privacy is the next luxury good! In my opinion, this slogan of the Helsinki data conference should be taken very seriously.

This means that the protection of personal data has so far only been granted to an elitist group?

Yes, that is the current situation. But we can assume that the issue will open up from there to a broader public. That is the natural course of things. We can support it by raising public awareness about the shortcomings.

Do you think that as an entrepreneur you can help eliminate the shortcomings that have been pointed out?

So far this is just speculation. I am still uncertain right now because I’m not involved enough in the IT subject. But what I feel as an entrepreneur is that we will be able to use this build-up of attention and desire. A market will open up here. I don’t know exactly what it will look like yet, but Michael has a clear vision and my full confidence. He already sees beyond the horizon. I trust him to be able to create the right products and solutions that are needed to remedy the shortcomings. That’s why I support him.

What exactly is your part in the project?

My first task is to provide as much market information as possible. This will have an influence on the strategic orientation, more precisely on TRUSC’s products and solutions. Once we have established a viable business model, it will be a question of financial viability. Then I am in my element!