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Weak and strong VPI

Posted on: Friday 14th of August 2009

One of the important things about Volunteered Personal Information (VPI) is that it runs through a spectrum. As it does so, it ‘morphs’ in nature.

The broadest possible definition of VPI includes all and any information that individuals volunteer about themselves – all ‘bottom up’ information, as it were. This includes all the information individuals volunteer via online social networking, the answers they give to market researchers, the search terms they put into Google.

Just by itself, such VPI on a mass scale represents a tipping point: a fundamental shift in the nature of information flows in our society: from primarily ‘top down’ from individuals to organisations, to primarily ‘bottom up’. This is the heart of the emerging Personal Communication Model.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, individuals don’t only volunteer information via a bottom up process, they also assert control over who they share this information with, for what purposes, under what terms and conditions.

We could call the first form of VPI ‘weak’ VPI. This is where the individual acts as a communicator but has little or no further control over how the resulting information is used, for what purposes, or whose benefit.

At the other end of the spectrum lies ‘strong’ VPI – where individuals assert control as data managers. This is the sort of VPI talked about by the VRM movement.

Our research covers both the strong and the weak forms of VPI. What’s crucial is to understand the connections, and the migration, from one to the other.

Alan Mitchell