Data is a currency

The trade in data is only in its infancy

If I talk about data marketplaces, you probably think of large resellers like Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters. Or startups like InfoChimps. What you probably don’t think of is that we as consumers trade in data.

Since the advent of computers in enterprises, our interaction with business has caused us to leave a data imprint. In return for this data, we might get lower prices or some other service. The web has only accelerated this, primarily through advertising, and big data technologies are adding further fuel to this change.

When I use Facebook I’m trading my data for their service. I’ve entered into this commerce perhaps unwittingly, but using the same mechanism humankind has known throughout our history: trading something of mine for something of theirs.

So let’s guard our privacy by all means, but recognize this is a bargain and a marketplace we enter into. Consumers will grow more sophisticated about the nature of this trade, and adopt tools to manage the data they give up.

Is this all one-way traffic? Business is certainly ahead of the consumer in the data management game, but there’s a race for control on both sides. To continue the currency analogy, browsers have had “wallets” for a while, so we can keep our data in one place.

The maturity of the data currency will be signalled by personal data bank accounts, that give us the consumer control and traceability. The Locker project is a first step towards this goal, giving users a way to get their data back from disparate sites, but is one of many future models.

Who runs data banks themselves will be another point of control in the struggle for data ownership.

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