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Online Privacy As Misunderstood As Sex And Religion Says Digital Data Expert

Bradford MBA and digital data expert Tony Fish offers analogies with sex and religion to explain the debate about the privacy of personal information online.

 
Tony Fish has over 20 years of experience as a board level executive across digital, web, telecoms and mobile companies.
 
Tony has also written three books on the mobile data industry. He graduated with a Bachelors in Engineering from Reading University and gained his MBA from Bradford University School of Management in 1993. 
 
He speaks regularly at public events and is an avid supporter of early stage growth tech companies. His portfolio of companies includes AMF Ventures, a mobile web company and Chronos Technology, a specialist supplier of timing and GPS solutions for the telecoms, utilities, enterprise, defence and geolocation markets. He is also the founder of Innovation Warehouse in London, a hive for entrepreneurs, and start-ups
 
We speak to him about his work, and where to draw the line between public and private information in the digital age. 
 
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how old you are and where you grew up?
That is not an easy question! You went straight into the difficult one! Well, I am 45 and I grew up mainly in Watford, north of London.
 
Did you ever envision your life becoming so embedded in the digital world?
Not exactly, but I knew I was always going to be in technology. I come from a long line of engineers. My great grandfather was one, my grandfather, my father and me. 
 
Do you have any children who have followed suit?
I tried with my daughters but neither of them picked up the torch. They do have science backgrounds but I keep telling them it’s not the same as Engineering. 
 
Tell us about the books you’ve written. What inspired each of them?
Each of my three books had a different rationale. 'Open Gardens' was written out of anger. This was at a point where everyone was talking about processes being closed and there was a small group of people interested in the open methodology. The book was specifically written for entrepreneurs who wanted to create a successful service within the mobile data industry. It was about offering a guide on how to work within the existing framework and how to prepare for a more complex future.
 
‘Mobile Web 2.0’ was about explaining how web 2.0 extended into the mobile world, and understanding that it operated under different principles. The book was written to predict where I saw the mobile industry going and the framework for investment.
 
My most recent book ‘My Digital Footprint’ is about extracting value from digital footprints. It talks about the role of the mobile in doing this and the number of possible controllers of the data. 
 
Privacy concerns are discussed a lot these days. What do you think people know now that they didn’t before? 
The press has been great at promoting fear, uncertainty and doubt when it comes to digital data. It also doesn’t help that big companies like Google and Facebook have let down their users. 
 
Where would you draw the line on personal digital information? Where does private information begin and end?
I can give you two analogies using religion and sex. The analogy with religion is that there are two routes in religious belief. One stems from faith and the other from method. Islam and Catholicism are method based because you get to heaven if you do certain things. Buddhism and Hinduism are faith based. The difference is that the fundamental assumptions and idealistic components are different. 
 
Same goes for sex. People know there are different interpretations and many ways of understanding relationships with people through sex but they refuse to acknowledge them and remain very opinionated about it. When it comes to digital privacy, very few people understand it completely but they have very strong opinions about it. 
 
You are involved in so many different projects. How do you juggle them? 
Each of the companies has different requirements. They all have very capable CEOs so my job is to provide advice and enthusiasm, to motivate them and to challenge them. I might look like a lot of work on the surface but it’s not because I’m enjoying it. I consider myself fortuitous because I have had the chance to dabble in so many exciting companies as opposed to having to do it all the way. 
 
Are there any companies you are particularly excited about?
We just started a new company called iNeed. iNeed lets you and your friends find trusted, local people to get things done. The company will provide little services: for instance, if you need to post a letter but don’t have the time to do it, and other things like that. You can decide to pay it forward, or barter something. We just raised GB£50,000 through crowd-funding
 
How did you guys come up with the idea?
It’s an idea that’s been around forever, its called society. It’s just something that had never been done electronically before. And this will allow people to respond in a timely manner. 
 
Do you have to have a science background to get involved in the tech start-up world?
No. 100 per cent no! What you need is a team with a diverse skillset. You will need the techie people but you’ll also need people who share the vision to get your goal accomplished. 
 
What can we expect from you in the future?
Nothing extraordinary over the next few years.Just remaining on top of the things I'm already involved in. I’m also writing a new book which is an update to the digital footprint book. 
 
More stories about students, alumni and programmes at Bradford University School of Management here
 
 

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