Understanding the economic value of your personal data

Your personal data is worthless – it’s only when it’s processed by the Facebooks or Googles of this world that it has business value

Much is being made of the manner in which those dastardly American companies are stealing all our precious data. They hoover it up, the Facebooks, Googles and the rest, make a fortune off it, and what do we get back? Nothing but access to the world’s information and a cat picture infrastructure. Surely something must be done.

That we do get the global library and the cat pictures shows the economics of the complaint isn’t quite right. We seem happy enough to allow them, whoever they are, to know about us in return for what we get. But there’s something wrong with the current debate on a deeper level too. The notion that the data itself is valuable – it isn’t.

Consider, just for a moment, something different: the recycling of the Earth’s precious and scarce natural resources. The value of one single plastic bottle or paper coffee cup that we throw away with such gay abandon, is negative.

Continue reading…