The Power of Gatekeepers Who Control Data and Information in a Digital World

How Access to Knowledge Has Been Restricted Down the Ages to the Present Times

We live in a Digital World where the Virtual has replaced the Physical and where the internet and other technologies rule the world controlling and moderating every aspect of our lives.

As the cliché that Data is the New Oil gains currency, those who control access to data and who store information and knowledge become all powerful.

Historically too, this was the case as who can be called the Gatekeepers who had the keys to the knowledge store were all powerful and who ruled the roost.

Right from the Indian Varna system to the European monks and priests who held the keys to texts deemed forbidden to the general public, world over, such gatekeepers had a prominent role to play as far as moderating and controlling access to knowledge was concerned.

In the modern era too, companies that were at the forefront of innovation ensured that the trade secrets and confidential data as well as privileged information were kept out of the bounds of the majority of the employees.

They allowed access to select employees only and that too after obtaining strict Non Disclosure Agreements from them.

How Innovative Firms Manage Access to Information and Why They Do So

Therefore, access to information was always restricted to a privileged few. This trend continues to this day wherein the New Business Battles are fought over Who Owns the Data and Who Controls its Flows as well as Moderates Information.

In our working experience, we have seen how the core algorithms that are at the Heart of the Code that works for a specific purpose is kept Hidden from the view of almost all employees except a few.

This is because such proprietary information gives the companies a competitive advantage over their rivals and hence, can be detrimental to them if it is leaked to third parties.

In addition, we have also worked in firms where most of such knowledge is free, provided you do not sell it or exchange it for monetary or nonmonetary benefits to third parties.

Indeed, if companies have to move up the Innovation Curve, they do have to share some knowledge with as many employees as possible.

This is where companies such as 3M have taken the lead and become among the world’s foremost companies that thrive on Knowledge Management.

What this means is that there are business reasons for controlling access to data and information.

How Silicon Valley Giants Have Awesome Power over Us from the Data That We Give

Cue to the present where the Digital Age is all about who Owns the Data and who is in a Position to Control its Flows.

The FAANGs or Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, taken together have now more data about the human race than anyone at any other point in history.

Right from acquiring and storing demographic data such as Names, Gender, Age, Location and other data to Buying Behaviour, Political Preferences, and even the type of friends that one has, these firms have agglomerated so much data about us that they can predict with great accuracy what we are going to do next.

Indeed, such Godlike ability is mainly because they have both data and information wherein they collect the former and their algorithms convert it into the latter.

Moreover, these firms are also very strict about whom they share the data with and Third Party Apps sometimes have to enter into partnerships with them in order to obtain such data.

No wonder that Mukesh Ambani, of Reliance, is fond of saying that Data is the New Oil and whoever owns and controls it would rule the world in the future. The power of Gatekeepers is indeed awesome.

Why We Need To Regulate the Collection and Use of Data So That it is not misused

Having said that, there is a flip side to all this and that is in the realm of how the data is used or more importantly, misused. For instance, Facebook has been accused of abetting the election of Trump by its targeted ads and messages at users based on what it thinks are their political preferences.

Worse, Cambridge Analytica, a Third Party App Firm was sued and almost shutdown by the US government for its role in this.

Moreover, the mindboggling level of data that Tech firms have about us means that they can use it for surveillance and other forms of abuse of such power.

Therefore, we as users of the websites and apps of these firms have to be wary and cognizant of how much data we are giving away, willingly or otherwise.

Such concerns have prompted the EU or the European Union to pass legislation which regulates the collection and use of the data that we are allowing to be taken from us.

In future too, both business and consumer rights battles would be fought over data and information and this is where there have to be additional watchers over the gatekeepers and those watching the Watchers.

Concluding Insights

Last, on the business side, marketers have never had as good since they can use the data to sense and intuit how consumers buy and are likely to buy.

Again, this raises concerns as well and hence, what we suggest is that there has to be a New Accord between all stakeholders wherein the collection and use of consumer data is done in accordance with the principle of fairness and transparency.

After all, data is an extension of our identities and we simply cannot have external firms have complete power over what we do and what we buy and watch.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.


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