Should You Own Your Data?

If we look at the way the internet has developed, massive juggernaut almost monopolistic companies have been developed.  They don’t pay for their resources.  Each of us willingly gives them resources for free.

Google and search, Facebook and your life, LinkedIn and your professional life, and on an on. Everyone opts in and willfully parts with their own personal data and the companies are able to make a lot of money off of it.  Because of network effects, they dominate.  It’s hard to compete with any of them once established.  Ask DuckDuckGo or Ello.

Companies like Amazon know everything there is to know about you and recommend products based on that data.  By the way, isn’t Amazon putting small local businesses out of business too similar to Walmart?  Why aren’t they given the same boogeyman treatment?

When I was in Italy advising the and we were discussing policy the question of whether we should regulate a Google or Facebook came up.  After all, if they were a manufacturing company they would certainly have regulatory constraints.  The hard answer is how do you regulate a company that is “opt-in”.  You don’t have to be on Facebook or LinkedIn.  You don’t have to use Google for search.

The other day when I was on the panel at Stuart School of Business, that question came up.  Who owns your data?  Should Apple have a piece of the data you create for Facebook when you use the app on their phone?

Professor Larry Birnbaum, the head of the computer science department at Northwestern was on the panel.  I loved one thing he said and I want to share it with you.  If you kept your own personal database of everything you bought on the internet, you’d be able to sell that data to an Amazon competitor and they’d recommend stuff for you.

One thing that is exciting me about Crypto/Blockchain is that each individual may get more power over their own data and be able to earn income off of it.