Feb 102012

Whole industries are built on individual consumers giving away valuable – and yes, private – data about themselves for free. There has never been much return for that disclosure beyond some vague argument about how advertising might be more targeted – in other words, you’d help industry become even more effective at taking your money. Google now broaches the idea of giving you some small pittance for the mother lode of data mining opportunities, $25 one-time payment for the ability to more or less permanently snoop on your home LAN. (This payment would be in what are in effect shopping coupons, which means not only is it not costing Google that much, but in fact learning where you spend that is part of the experiment.)

Revenue sharing ideas have been timidly suggested by others in the past, as a way to put a capitalistic spin on trade in personal information. People would place their own value on privacy and in the marketplace decide when to ‘sell’. Private people would presumably place a very high value on data, and thus not disclose much. Free and open people would give it away, as largely they do now (so Google and others can get rich.) Those ideas have been squashed, because in order to be effective, the profiling models of any consumer base need the broader base of data from everyone. Any sort of opt-in arrangement gives nightmares to businessmen whose wares rise or fall based on having data about everyone.

The extent to which Google is willing to finally give a little tithe back is recognition of just how much value really is there to be had, and how even today’s privacy-ignorant public might notice with concern otherwise.

 Posted by at 7:59 am on February 10, 2012