With all the stories about big companies collecting data, you may have wondered what they actually get. Let’s take a look at what your data is worth and why so many companies are going to great lengths to get their hands on it.
What are your data?
Before we start talking about the value of things, it may be helpful to first determine what we are talking about. After all, the word “data” is a pretty intangible term at best, so when we talk about yours, what do we mean?
Well, the answer may change a bit depending on who you ask, but generally speaking we’ll be talking about what most people would call personal data. This can be your name, your address, your email address, even your IP address; anything that can locate you.
Beyond that, other important data points are your age, your ethnicity, your nationality, your sex, your gender, and the list goes on. Of course, it doesn’t end there, it’s also interesting your income, your level of education and a lot of related statistics that make you you, at least on paper.
What is your data used for?
All of these data points together can be used to make a profile of you, and this profile is worth money to advertisers so they can target ads. After all, they don’t want to sell tampons to someone who doesn’t use them, or market an American van to an apartment dweller in central Paris. It’s about getting the right ads to the right people.
It’s important to understand this: when people talk about how we should protect our data and discuss legislation to protect our privacy, it’s usually about protecting people from marketers. Government surveillance is a very real thing, but advertising executives could be a more immediate and pressing threat to our privacy.
The advertising and marketing industry is huge: Two of the world’s largest companies, Meta, which owns Facebook, and Alphabet, particularly its search engine Google, are in the business of selling ad space on their platforms and are Earning money. in.
Meta reported revenue of more than $100 billion in 2021, while Alphabet reported more than $250 billion. That’s an incredible amount of money, and in Google’s case, more than 80 percent is generated by ads, according to Yahoo! News. For Meta, it’s a bit harder to pin down, but we can expect the numbers to be in the same neighborhood.
How is your data collected?
Clearly, the stakes are high when collecting data. Fortunately for these companies, there are many ways to collect it, especially since much of it is provided by us. For example, people give away a lot of data when they subscribe to many of the free services advertised on the Internet. Although not everyone will use the data you provide to advertisers, many of them will.
The biggest offenders here are Facebook and Google, both of which seem to collect almost everything you do on their platform and beyond. Google has been caught recording location data more than once, for example, and Meta likely uses facial recognition technology in its VR Metaverse, and has used it in the past at Facebook.
Another powerful way of collecting data is through your browsing behavior, which is usually controlled by browsing cookies. This includes what you click on, what you ignore, what you like or dislike, how long you spend on which sites, and more details. In fact, all this information is a data set in itself, just like the specifications of your computer, which can be collected through browser fingerprinting.
How much is your data worth?
Now that you have an idea of what exactly is for sale, let’s see how much it’s worth to these advertising companies. It would be nice to get a concrete answer, but no one seems to know exactly how much a person’s data is worth, and none of the advertisers are saying. As such, even the best informed sources must employ some guesswork when determining what data counts.
Probably the most data-driven study is one conducted in 2020 by MacKeeper in conjunction with YouGov, which gives a very nuanced answer about the value of data. According to the study, data from men is worth slightly more than data from women, and data from black and Middle Eastern people is worth more than data from white people.
The data from MacKeeper’s study is robust, but it focuses primarily on what companies pay for advertising data in the US and UK by ethics and gender segment and then divides it by the number of people in each segment. This calculator of financial times does pretty much the same thing in case you want to see the value of your data, though keep in mind that it’s from 2013.
Dividing the loot
However, there are other ways to calculate the value of our data to these companies, namely by looking at its value and then calculating our share of it. for example, a financial times The journalist calculates that our data is worth $26 per person when you divide Facebook sales by the number of people who use it. He could also calculate it based on Facebook’s market value divided by its number of users, in which case our data is worth about $200 per person.
Not bad, but could be even more: Web3’s Tapmydata app claims it could cost up to $3,000 per person. He arrives at this figure by taking Facebook’s market capitalization and then dividing it by monthly active users. As much as it is exactly, it’s a lot more than most people realize, and we’re giving it away.
How to protect yourself
If you want to deny these advertisers the money they make from your data, the best way to do it is to not play their game. You don’t have a Facebook or Google account, use DuckDuckGo to search the web instead of Google, and don’t sign up for any services.
Of course, in this world, it’s hard to be completely offline: many people use social media simply to keep in touch with friends. Businesses around the world use Google Workspace, and you need an account to use it.
However, there are things you can do: For one thing, use incognito mode more, as it logs you out of any account that might track you. Second, you want to subscribe to fewer online services, especially free ones. Lastly, content blockers can block tracking scripts. For example, Firefox has “enhanced tracking protection” built in, Microsoft Edge has “tracking prevention”, and Safari has “intelligent tracking prevention”.
All that said, though, tracking is a fact of digital life, so it’s best to learn to accept that there will be a certain amount of it whether we like it or not. The only way to really stop it is to turn off the computer and never turn it back on.