Did you know that your data are worth?

Do you remember when you created a profile on Facebook? Name, e-mail, phone number, those are basic requests. But feeding that data in, it is like opening Pandora’s box: marital status, interests, favorite movies, academic and professional records… your data is worth money, so they can ask you anything.

As a matter of fact, filling your profile in any social network or online tool is just the beginning of a long race of giving away data. Every post, photo, video, meme, is information that your consciously granting to the platform.

But unconsciously, you also give out information: the activated location, for instance, lets them know where have you been, each search you do defines your area of interests, your photo metadata reveal details of the device that captured it, with each image you upload you provide details about your physiognomy that, later is used to recognize you in photos you did not authorize.

How much is your data worth?

In April 2019, Financial Times magazine estimated the value of data business starring the main technology companies. The result was the “tiny figure” of 76 billion dollars.

In just over two years, the value of data extraction worldwide will double: almost 220 billion dollars by 2022.

This industry and related business models are very profitable for one reason: investment in raw materials is minimal. Users voluntarily give out their data. Thereby expenses are basically just for maintaining their service attractive enough so that users remain linked to it. It does not require expensive equipment, nor do we have to invest in wood, fuel or food. Maybe a quite significant electricity bills though.

It is quite curious how the snake bites its tail: the user is not only the data source, but also the final receiver of the services provided by these data. That is the main reason why data is worth so much. In other words, advertising on social networks is a lucrative business, and is maintained thanks to the interest of people in consuming internet content: post on Facebook, videos on YouTube, songs on Spotify…

Data privacy: everyone should worry about it.

Advertising is the main cause that anyone’s data in the world is worth money. But it is not the only one. Your data is worth, because knowing who you are, in the diverse set of aspects in life, allows technology companies to play with an advantage the game of influences.

A general feeling among people is: if I’m not famous, or a millionaire, then it doesn’t matter who accesses my information. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Even if you are not afraid of getting the attention of a paparazzi, or even if yout think that “you have nothing to hide” at least ask yourself what democracy means to you. This game with the personal data obtained in social networks has an economic reward, as we know. Yet let’s not forget that political consequences can be derived from it as well.

Cambridge Analityca: a revelation about Facebook

Does the Cambridge Analytica scandal say something to you? Essentially, a series of connections came to light to open the debate of who actually could have access to Facebook information.

In this case, the trigger was a third-party app that asked the user for permission to consult certain data of the Zuckerberg giant. That is relatively normal, just think how many times you have said “Yes”, “I’lI accept” or ‘Next” to finally be able to open the game or app you want. Well, I will tell you that, at that time, doing that not only meant giving green light to unknown uses of your data, but also that you could enable access to your friends information.

End of story? Outside the boundaries of Facebook, and having respected the data protection laws at that time, a third-party app could obtain information from millions of users. And who owns something, disposes: The British consultant Cambridge Analytics agreed to a figure not yet final (the last count gave 87 million) of peoples profiles.

Sometime later, several scandals about decisive political moments such as the 2016 elections in the United States and the Brexit referendum came to light. They were all influenced by Cambridge Analytical services and the processing of Facebook data.

And what happened after Cambridge Analytica?

Zuckerberg had to take responsibility for that and some things have changed. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation stands out, which still turns the big boys of technology upside down to try not to violate their statutes towards the citizens of the European community.

But it is a fact that when you fill a profile, you research on a subject, you talk to a person or upload a photo, you are giving information about yourself and others around you. You probably won’t stop doing it, neither will I, but be aware of this fact, so that if you see a more respectful proposal about the value of your data on the technological horizon you are able to identify it.

Perhaps you even have a personal experience about the use of data by the most famous applications. Comment it.

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Gabriela M. Fernández

Journalist with a vocation, doesn't lose hope of learning how to program. Hardcore cinephile, TV-show and technology addict... we could say a full-fledged millennial.

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