The New Asset Class: Your Personal Data

Learn how and why it’s collected – and the value you are creating.

Whether you’d like to believe it or not, your personal data is an asset for many companies and governments. Organizations collect detailed information about you based on several factors, and many private entities choose to sell it.

We get it. You’re not sure what data is being collected and why so many companies go to such great lengths and expense to access it. To be frank, it probably doesn’t even cross your mind that often. But being aware of how and why your personal information is being used gives you the power to opt out (or not) in the future by denying the use of certain services. As we become more educated of the true value of the data we are creating, we will understand how to claim its true value.

To understand why organizations, value your data, you need to understand the reasons and ways in which they use it.

Why do big data companies want our info?

According to the World Economic Forum, “At its core, personal data represents a post-industrial opportunity. It has unprecedented complexity, velocity and global reach.” Alright, so there’s opportunity there. But just how valuable is that data? According to The New York Times, aggregated personal data is worth billions. Thus, a question looms: if the big tech companies are using our data (yes, even yours), and making all that cold, hard cash, should we receive dividends for it?

Are we slaves to the digital economy? Do we have a choice?

Well, before answering that, it’s important to explore whether or not we can opt out of permitting our information to be used. Are we forced by the digital economy to let others track our online productivity and sell our data to make money, while not receiving benefit from it? If data was legally an asset class, how would we be compensated for our online productivity? Working for someone else, while enjoying the services? Access to the services is what we agreed to give up our data for – but was this the old model? 1.0? Does a 2.0 model have a choice in the cards? Only time will tell, as governments and policymakers are only just catching up, taking action and adjusting regulations.

Today as the digital economy continues to evolve and we learn more about how our data and productivity is used, we can say, well, yes and no…

The online products and services from which data are sourced have been developed with the intention for us to use and share our information (think social media). On these platforms, big data can see information like our age, sex, relationship status, the things we like, and the types of posts we respond to. We have willingly signed up to give this ALL up.

By using their sites, we agree to open-source our data and let the tech industry use it in return for the provided service. Therefore, they don’t owe us anything except to continue building the products and services that we use to connect with the world. We are swapping our productivity, purchasing behavior, our posts and our conversations so that we can receive these services - that today we almost can’t live without.

So, believe it or not, we’ve actually given much of our data away simply by making accounts on certain websites. When we sign up for a service — say, a social media site like Facebook — we are required to check off a tiny, seemingly harmless box that accepts the terms of service. And sometimes, that’s the equivalent of signing a contract telling these websites that they can sell our data that was created by our use of their platforms.

The problem lies in our willingness to sign when we haven’t really read the terms. How often to you read every single word you find on that page? If you’re like most people, you probably skim, scroll, and simply agree (Guilty as charged on my end, too – am just so addicted to new cool products and apps…).

Opting out of using these services is often the only way to avoid allowing your data to be used and sold. If that’s your aim, go live under a rock, say goodbye to social media or almost anywhere you might make purchases online, at least for now – until we start to see government’s take action against some of these multinationals as a mechanism to protect the productivity produced in their local countries, until then we don’t have much of an option.

All that aside, not everyone is selling your data and data sharing isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Though sometimes our personal data can be employed in a way that seems invasive (hello, targeted advertisements), it can also be used for good. Data helps private organizations and governments understand what motivates people. And knowing that allows them to better serve their communities by creating relevant products and providing social and economic benefits. Data in the world of impact will revolutionize the way we understand and measuring impact, drive efficiency and transparency in the NGO ecosystems. It will change the world, allowing private organizations, government and NGO’s help build a better tomorrow today.

Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, Co-founder and visionary behind P3 Global Management, P3GM and KAPTYN. At P3GM & KAPTYN he leads the global development and policy work behind structuring Public Private Partnerships (PPP) around smart infrastructure with local, state and federal governments.

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