StJohn Deakins

From Digital Consumers to Digital Citizens: A New Narrative in the Age of AI

Generative AI and Large Language Models wouldn’t exist without our data. StJohn Deakins, Founder of CitizenMe explains why it’s time to become active digital citizens, with innate digital rights who can participate and create value on our terms.

Euroconsumers showcases diverse perspectives and opinions from various stakeholders, however our opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Euroconsumers.

Data in the era of generative AI and LLMs

In the spirit of the digital age, let’s begin with a reimagining of Descartes’ classic philosophical proposition: “I generate data, therefore I am.” This statement rings true in our modern world, where every click, every search, every digital interaction contributes to the vast, ever-growing ocean of data.

As we navigate through the digital landscape, we leave behind a trail of data breadcrumbs that form our digital selves. In the era of mass generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMs), these digital selves are becoming increasingly complex and valuable.

Our interactions, preferences, and behaviours are no longer just data points; they are the fuel that powers the engines of AI, driving innovation and personalisation. But as we progress further into this digital ecosystem, the question of control over our data becomes paramount.

Over the past decade, we have seen a shift in the narrative. We have moved from being mere consumers of digital products and services to becoming active contributors, generating data that is integral to the creation and functioning of these services. Yet, as we contribute more, we seem to control less. Our data is scattered across various platforms, stored in databases we have no access to, used in ways we may not fully understand or agree with.

What’s more, developers of Generative AI engines are themselves unable to be sure what data is used in their own outputs. They feed immense volumes of scraped public data, including Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and their magical black-box synthesises the output. There is no audit trail or list of ingredients used.

This is where the need for a paradigm shift arises. We need to move from being seen as consumers to being recognised as citizens in the digital world.

As citizens, we should have rights over our data: the right to control how it is used, who uses it, and for what purpose. In a digital age, this becomes a ‘right to self’, period.

Consumer organisations at the forefront in the era of digital citizenship

In this new era of digital citizenship, consumer rights groups have been evolving to take on a crucial new role. They are no longer just advocates for fair prices and quality services; they have become champions of digital rights, fighting for transparency, data privacy, and consumer control over personal information.

Consumer groups are at the forefront of the battle to shift the narrative, pushing for legislation and regulations that recognise and protect our rights as digital citizens.

They have the capacity to push for guardrails, ensuring that customer-centric organisations help to evolve the ecosystem toward positive outcomes; respecting the rights of consumers and their data while encouraging participation from customers as newly empowered stakeholders.

Moreover, consumer rights groups can play a vital role in educating the public about their digital rights, helping people to understand the value of their data and how to protect it.

As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, consumer rights groups can guide us towards a future where we are not just consumers, but active, empowered citizens in the digital world.

From digital consumers to digital citizens

The narrative of the digital citizen is not just about control; it’s about participation and value creation. When we contribute our data, we are not just passive consumers; each one of us becomes an active participant, contributing to the development and refinement of AI systems, shaping the digital landscape, and creating value for ourselves, businesses and society.

Evolving business models to thrive by delivering individual agency

The concept of digital citizenship also brings with it the idea of responsibility. As digital citizens, we have a responsibility to understand how our data is used, to make informed decisions about our digital interactions, and to hold companies accountable for their data practices.

This personal agency to take responsibility and participate requires access to informed, unbiased and easily digestible education.

However, this shift in narrative is not without its challenges. It requires a rethinking of existing business models, a redefining of the relationship between companies and their users, and a restructuring of data practices. It requires transparency, accountability, and a commitment to user empowerment.

But the rewards are worth the effort. A world where users are active participants, where they have control over their data and its personal outcomes, and where they can contribute and create value on their own terms, is a world that is more equitable, more diverse, more innovative, and more in tune with the ethos of the digital age.

Citizens with innate digital rights

As we move further into the age of AI and LLMs, the need to shift the narrative from people being consumers to becoming digital citizens becomes more urgent.

It’s time to recognise the value of our contributions, to assert our rights over our data, and to take control of our digital selves. It’s time to become digital citizens, participating and creating value on our own terms. Citizens with innate digital rights.

The digital age is now very much here, and we are no longer just digital consumers; we are digital citizens. Let’s embrace this new narrative and shape the digital world in our image.

After all, we are not just data points; we are, each of us, the architects of the digital future. The choice of what that future becomes is, and should always be, all of ours.

StJohn Deakins is founder and CEO of CitizenMe. On this mission to empower everyone with better life outcomes from their own personal data, they achieve this by providing people with personal AI, working with their own data, all held and controlled on their own smartphones. CitizenMe licenses this zero-party data technology to customer centric brands to power their consumer applications and touchpoints.