Humans generate more data on Facebook in a single day than exists in all the books ever written combined. That’s not even counting Google Search trends, Amazon and Alibaba’s shopping insights, and Microsoft’s gleanings from having Windows installed on a gazillion devices. Data, unlike gold and oil, is a nearly unlimited resource.
So why aren’t we getting paid for creating it?
In return for this data — which provides the primary source of income for social networks like Facebook — we’ve developed new addictions, watched national elections fall under the influence of foreign entities, and unwittingly participated in the training of autonomous technology that’ll likely disrupt the vast majority of industries humans currently work in. But we haven’t gotten paid.
Facebook, on the other hand, has: it’s worth nearly half a trillion dollars.
Does this mean we’re all a bunch of cows giving the milk away for free? If our personal information is worth so much how come all we’re getting in return for it is status updates and a never ending stream of advertisements?
Perhaps you don’t use Facebook; maybe you’re too busy or social media just isn’t your thing. But the chances are pretty good, if you’re reading this, you use Amazon, Google, or LinkedIn. Either way, the vast majority of people on this planet are giving data away for free.
And, for now, that’s fine because we’re sure that we’re getting something out of it. The people asking questions and raising red flags often get drowned out in the sea of likes, shares, and memes.
Last year, when congress called social media companies to the figurative “principal’s office” to discuss Russian election interference, Twitter and Facebook only begrudgingly participated. People, by and large, aren’t interested in calling these companies to task for how they handle our personal info.
And currently the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is preparing to help settle a dispute over data (our data) between Microsoft’s LinkedIn network and a tiny company you’ve probably never heard of called HiQ.
It’s excusable if you weren’t aware of the legal battle. As a dispute over data, it’s not a high-profile case with drama and intrigue. But it could have huge implications throughout the technology world. Basically LinkedIn believes it has a right to deny 3rd parties, like HiQ, from scraping data which was intentionally set by users to be made publicly available. HiQ says the data doesn’t belong to LinkedIn anyway.
So who actually owns the data?
Before we can answer we have to discuss why this information is so important and valuable.
1. Advertising makes up the bulk of Google…
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