How Much Are You Worth In The Cloud? by Peter Judge
Debates about Big Data are interesting, but there is one issue they often slide past - the value of the data itself.
The vendors in the space are vary clear on the value of Big Data. They are lining up to talk on topics like: “How advanced analytics can create competitive business advantage”. And indeed, it’s pretty clear that if you have a big stash of data about customers or online behaviour, you can get valuable insights from it.
However, if the data is that valuable, how come the big web companies get it for nothing?
At a breakfast briefing with Cloudera, I heard two organisations approach this question from different directions. Some have the data and are figuring what to do with it. Others know what they want to do, and are working towards getting the data they need.
Deutsche Bank realises it has a lot of data, on all sorts of transactions, and is starting to realise what kind of information it can get from it.
Meanwhile, health insurance firm BUPA can see all sorts of services it could add if it increased the amount of data it has - for instance, it could assess particular interventions, or investigate whether it can get into preventive medecine, by observing its customers’ behaviour.
Both of them face a small hurdle - getting permission to gather the data, or to use the data they already have.
At the moment, that permission is easy to get. Facebook and Google are a testament to this. All their users have given access to their data, and the companies’ value is (at some level) just the sum of the value of that data, multiplied by their ability to exploit it.
But what if that changes?
Europe is creating regulations on privacy which are supposed to make sure that personal data is our own property, and only gets exploited in ways we know about.
That move is being fiercely contested by vendors of course.
But what if we actually owned the copyright in our data. and could demand a royalty when it is used?
Tech guru, Jaron Lanier, has a new book out: Who Owns The Future? I haven’t read it yet, but a review passed on this suggestion: suppose a couple finds love on a dating site. Their data is aggregated and used, and thirty years later, a couple on another dating site are successfully paired up, in part because of the original couple’s data. If that happens, why not pay the first couple (and all the other couples in the database) an infinitessimal nano-payment?
It’s a strange idea, but if we don’t start asking questions like this, the Internet giants are colonising our personal data like an unexplored continent, giving us beads and trinkets in exchange for something whose value we don’t yet understand.
Peter Judge is editor of TechWeekEurope UK