December 28, 2018

THE DATA THEORY OF VALUE:

WE'RE ALL JUST STARTING TO REALIZE THE POWER OF PERSONAL DATA (Louise MATSAKIS, 12.28.18, wIRED)

Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower and former employee with Cambridge Analytica, swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 16, 2018.ANDREW HARRER/GETTY IMAGES
IT'S NO SECRET that companies like Facebook and Google scoop up personal information to serve users ads. But if anything became clear this year, it's that consumers have a lot more to learn about what happens to their data online--how it's gathered, who gets to look at it, and what it's worth.

American corporations are expected to have spent over $19 billion this year acquiring and analyzing consumer data, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, from names and emails to the unique way we fumble with our smartphones. That info is used by marketers, advertisers, analysts, and investors for a host of purposes that remain largely opaque to the average person. In some places, seemingly irrelevant factors like the type of device you have, your email address, or the time of day you make a purchase may be used determine whether you qualify for a loan. Despite all the power and value this data can have, there are few laws in the US regulating the collection and sale of it. [...]

Our personal data is being sold, traded, and shared in ways that we're only beginning to fully unravel. In just the past year, we've learned how these troves of information can be used to influence elections, enrich hedge funds, and even catch a murderer. The next step in 2019 will be deciding what should be done about it.

We are obviously already receiving value for our data, just in the form of the free web tools we get to exploit.  [What, after all, would the ability to Google have been worth to someone in 1818?]

But the growing dependency of higher-end consumers--companies, political campaigns, etc.--on our data suggests we should receive greater recompense.  At least, that is, until others stop selling it.

Posted by at December 28, 2018 8:24 AM

  

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