How Web3 can change the conversation on data

We may be in the early foothills of Web3, but in terms of the ongoing conversation around data and privacy, it has the potential to deliver a fundamental change in what consumers expect, desire and tolerate.

The world of data and privacy has become a popular topic over the past decade.

The internet and social media sites have provided new levels of data which have allowed for deeper and more personalised experiences, from the content users are served online, ads or even recommendations for the movies we see every day on our screens, or the food available in our local supermarket. There is a clear undercurrent of data that helps us go about our daily lives, that most consumers are oblivious to.

In July this year, the government announced a proposal to alter data privacy laws in the form of a Data Reform Bill. Introduced into parliament, it formed part of the UK’s National Data Strategy, aiming to improve the way companies collected and stored data and gave consumers tighter controls.

But this hasn’t taken into consideration a further shift in e-commerce trends, such as the emergence of Web3 and NFTs, which through their blockchain nature, bring in a new range of privacy, data and consumer freedom. Private NFTs will ensure assets and transactions aren’t exposed to everyone, but ownership and all transactions through traditional NFTs are open for everyone to see.

In other words, anyone who owns the latter can have data collected, or choose to share.

Adopting Web3 and NFTs for loyalty programmes

We’re already starting to see brands beginning to adopt NFT, Metaverse and other Web3 solutions for their loyalty and relationship programmes.

These solutions pose some major questions, such as why companies shouldn’t own – and profit from – consumer data that they have legally collected, why data should sit in inflexible siloes with its movement controlled by organisations and not by the company, and why data can’t be taken where consumers want to due to closed ecosystems. Or – who actually owns the data?

Web3 brings with it the potential to move the conversation on, from how much should brands be allowed to benefit from someone’s data to how consumers can benefit more from their data. This comes alongside a foundational shift in data-ownership, from brand and platform-owned data, to decentralised, individually-managed data.

Brands embracing NFTs

This isn’t just blue sky thinking.

In September this year, Starbucks announced its US Odyssey programme, powered by Web3 technology. The programme offers Starbucks Rewards members and employees the opportunity to earn and purchase digital collectible NFT assets that unlock access to new benefits and immersive coffee experiences, while creating a digital community that will enable new ways to engage with its members and partners.

Budweiser has also stepped into this space, releasing a limited number of "Budverse x FIFA World Cup digital collectibles" stored on the Ethereum blockchain NFTs that can be traded and exchanged online, for a topical and unique way to commemorate this year's World Cup.

Customers profiting from Web3?

But what does this look like in a tangible future? Imagine an airline loyalty card, like British Airways, where a loyal consumer builds up status through collecting points, a valuable asset they’ve earned. Web3 via NFTs would allow loyal customers the freedom to sell or profit from their asset on the open market. But what if that asset’s value goes beyond one organisation and provides consumers with access, status and value across the whole Web3 ecosystem?

In this world, personalisation and targeting is still possible but controlled by the consumer, instead of cookies, almost like a wallet, but the wallet is theirs. The power dynamic in the data conversation looks very different from the current one. Whether reforms will take this into account remains to be seen.

Chris Camacho


Cheil UK