Our Personal Data On Sale

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Our personal information (eg., names, address, hobbies, income level, etc.) has always been a much sought after commodity by big companies and businesses for a long time. Personal data are important for renters, banks, utility service providers, garbage haulers, phone companies and others. Such personal detail is important for businesses to sell their products to customers through targeted advertisement.

Even Government agencies like drivers vehicles license departments are reported to sell personal information data to insurance companies, background check businesses or car manufacturers and generate millions of dollars in revenues.

Internet Era

In this internet era, our love to smart gadgets and free products/services, collecting very expansive & intrusive personal information has become much easier. Since the birth of big data emperors like Google, Facebook, Intagram, etc. value of personal profile has skyrocketed. In a 2009 keynote speech on “Roundtable on Online Data Collection, Targeting and Profiling” European Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has been quoted as saying “personal data is the new oil of internet”.

Personal data is the new oil of the internet and the new currency of the digital world.

Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner

Personal Data Value

The Financial Times has build a data pricing calculator in 2013 to “check how much multibillion-dollar data broker industry might pay for your personal data”.

Based on a report, Cambridge Analytica paid $0.75-$5.00 per US individual Facebook account. According to a New York Times report, Cambridge Analytica harvested Facebook data of up to 87 million users. This is just a single firm use case but there are many other businesses they are too interested on the same data profile. One report suggests that “data worth at least $7,000 per US internet user is being sold by the US data brokers alone every year“.

Data Acquisition Cost

Personal data is collected by the big tech companies (data harvester) at fraction by providing free services like browsers, social networking sites. Such freemium business models are designed with an “ability to profile consumers and then use their profile to target them for commercial purposes”. Most consumers are lured to free internet products.

Because such freemium services offer choice, access and communication enabling immense value to the consumers. For such free services of immerse value, many consumers are willing to trade their personal information for receiving product advertisements. Although this type of business model is chosen by the users, consumers are kept in dark about what information is collected how businesses are using their personal data.

Consumers Consent

Most pervasive data on consumers behavior are obtained without clear consent from the consumers.

Tools must now be developed that balance .. the respect of users’ right to control their public exposure; and the obligation to protect them against abusive and risky practices targeted at them.

Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner

It’s important businesses honor consumer right to privacy and develop transparent policies to protect their personal data.

Contents of this Notes is inspired and & sourced from Keynote Speech – Roundtable on Online Data Collection, Targeting and Profiling by Melena Kuneva. Cover photo by Thomas Breher from Pixabay