In Exploiting the Data Market, Trust Is Key

I’ve written before about the value that data marketplaces add when they combine facts drawn from different data sets. However, as new products are created to accomplish this, the relationship between suppliers, the original data and those who download or buy it changes. Trust in the data marketplace itself, and trust in its procedures and personnel, become critical parts of the relationship.

Today, the majority of commercial data marketplaces collect data from various sources, put it in one place, and make it available for download or sale. Some of those data sets are free, supplied by public institutions like the World Bank, the United Nations and various national governments. Some is commercial, sold under license from market research companies, legal firms, realtors and credit-checking agencies.

For customers using a data marketplace, the primary concern is typically the data set itself and the reputation of the organization that created it, not the credibility of the site they’re downloading from. If I want to buy Heinz Baked Beans, for example, it is the Heinz brand reputation for quality that drives me, far more than anything (except perhaps price) about the corner store or strip mall from which I buy those beans.

All of this changes when the data marketplace begins to create new knowledge by combining existing data sets. If data quality or the trustworthiness of its creator are key selling points for individual data sets, how do the metrics change once data is aggregated? Were the data scientists who converted the data sufficiently knowledgeable? Did the two sets record information in a comparable fashion? If both data sets record details of unemployment statistics, for example, did the agencies define an unemployed person in the same way?

For data marketplaces, the challenge is to answer these questions and communicate those answers clearly and succinctly to their customers. Increasingly, perhaps, the customer relationship will be with the data marketplace rather than with the creators of the individual data sets to which it provides enriched access.

For more on the ways that data markets are pushing new boundaries in exploiting data, see my latest weekly update on GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy of flickr user Sahaja Mediation

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