Insight: Who owns your data? Why open matters

28 Jan 2020

The internet has provided us with endless opportunities to connect, communicate and create together.  But with its great success – from both a scale and innovation perspective – comes unexpected consequences.  Due to its design and suddenness of growth, there are a number of inherent challenges (e.g. the centralization of power in the hands of the few, rapid decline of user trust and data privacy, the growing increase of data & algorithmic biases, etc) that need to be addressed to ensure that the internet reaches its intended potential – to serve the diverse needs of all people around the world. 

Today, entrepreneurs and industry experts are working across the globe to redefine an alternate approach to today’s centralized web. Many are standing up decentralized networks and protocols, and experimenting with new data access and business models – such as open banking – that (re)distribute greater control among users.  

At the centre of these digital models (both old and new) is the production of massive amounts of data.  Data has become so big – and increasingly open and linked – that organizations are defaulting to data and artificial intelligence to make critical decisions and automate customer experiences.  While the rising importance of data has increased the value consumers, businesses and governments assign to it, the question to ask is – who ultimately has the right to control it? 

Beyond Open Banking: Moving to the Centre 

Open Banking is part of a broader movement that elevates the importance of customer data and data ownership.  By making it easier for customers to regain control of their data, open banking gives customers the power to grant third-party institutions (beyond incumbent banks) access to their account and transaction data.  Through these “open” data access models, customers can benefit from seamless product switching and comparisons, along with enhanced personal financial-management experiences.  

Today, many countries across the world have implemented open banking / open data standards, with the UK and EU furthest along the adoption curve.  Despite the customer value being apparent, Canada has yet to solidify an open banking framework that reflects our country’s unique culture and banking context.  

As Canadian regulators continue to debate the merits (and governance / privacy framework) of open banking, ATB Financial continues to embrace the possibilities of collaboration and co-creation with FinTechs, developers and industry partners to advance both banking innovation and the open data standards that are defining digital industries of the future.  

Future of Financial Services – More than Data 

Every organization in the future will be built off rich data and patterns that will be combined and connected to deliver personalized experiences for their customers. As we, the users, are the core source of data for these digital value chains, shouldn’t we have the right to access, and control and even own, our personal own data?  At ATB, we think so.  

Even though customers’ right to data control extends beyond financial data, open banking is just one step towards a truly open future.  And as we take steps to proactively shape and embark on this next wave of internet innovation, every company must think more broadly (beyond data) and commit to building a trusted company.  

In a world where the scale and scope of cooperation is limitless, trust must extend beyond technology considerations and address data concerns such as privacy, bias, fairness, explainability, and transparency. Only when all these dimensions of trust are satisfied and embedded into every aspect of every organization will a truly open internet emerge.

As one of the top financial ecosystems in the world, Canada is in a unique position to lead the way. 

ATB’s Open Finance Challenge

On February 7 – 9, ATB is hosting Alberta’s very first Open Finance Hackathon. A weekend-long event, ATB – along with its partners Interac, Axxiome, AltaML, Mastercard, Box, Looker, Platform Calgary and Lighthouse Labs –  aims to demonstrate to Canadians the power and possibilities of APIs and open data within the banking industry. We’re using this opportunity to also bring together Canada’s finest minds in software development, fintech, design and other disciplines to foster innovation and adoption of open data. The collective minds will be working towards solving six proposed challenges spanning multiple industries including finance and health. For more information about the event or to register please visit