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OPLIN 4Cast #284: Personal data: Making the trade

Posted in 4cast

There are a lot of companies providing services on the Internet that have lately decided they need to make your “web experience” more personal. Yahoo! has just introduced Axis, Microsoft recently made their Bing search more social, Google has encouraged people to log in to their Google accounts before they use the Chrome browser to enhance their experience, and there’s speculation that Facebook will soon use the mountains of “like” and profile data it collects to offer people a more personalized web search. There’s little doubt that these new web tools offer a better, custom-fit Internet experience in return for giving the companies access to some personal data. But what’s in it for the companies? Are they improving your web experience just because they like you? Well, no. When your personal data is combined with other data, it’s possible to create a valuable commodity.

  • Facebook’s IPO and the Laws of Big Data (SmartData Collective/Gil Press)  “The value of personal data is zero. Personal data is not worth much if it’s kept personal and a sample of one is good for answering a very limited set of questions. Personal data gains value when it is shared, when it is combined with and compared to other data.”
  • Personal data needs clear trading rules (World Economic Forum Blog/John Rose and Carl Kalapesi)  “…personal data is a highly valuable asset, like oil or water. And like these assets, it needs to flow or move to create value. But unlike these and many other tangible assets, data is not consumed when used. Instead, its use increases its value because new data elements are accumulated, providing greater insights into individuals.”
  • The cost of losing a customer’s trust (GigaOM/Ki Mae Heussner)  “In this report – and a highly cited report on the topic last year – the World Economic Forum calls personal data ‘an emerging asset class.’ But to really extract its value, the organization argues, public and private institutions need to rethink how they do business so that consumers get more protection, rights and opportunities to hold organizations accountable when it comes to their data.”
  • A stock exchange for your personal data (Technology Review/Jessica Leber)  “On his [Bernardo Huberman, director of HP Lab’s Social Computing Research Group] proposed market, a person who highly values her privacy might chose an option to sell her shopping patterns for $10, but at a big risk of not finding a buyer. Alternately, she might sell the same data for a guaranteed payment of 50 cents. Or she might opt out and keep her privacy entirely. You won’t find any kind of opportunity like this today. But with Internet companies making billions of dollars selling our information, fresh ideas and business models that promise users control over their privacy are gaining momentum.”

Privacy fact:
In March, 73% of poll respondents told the Pew Internet and American Life Project that they would “NOT BE OKAY” with a search engine keeping track of their searches and using that information to personalize their future search results.