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Privacy Businesses Google Government The Almighty Buck Technology Apple

Your Personal Information Is Now the World's Most Valuable Commodity (www.cbc.ca) 158

"Data is clearly the new oil," says Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and the author of Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. While oil was the world's most valuable resource, it has been surpassed by data, as evidenced by the five most valuable companies in the world today -- Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google's parent company Alphabet. CBC.ca reports: What "the big five" are selling -- or not selling, as in the case of free services like Google or Facebook -- is access. As we use their platforms, the corporate giants are collecting information about every aspect of our lives, our behavior and our decision-making. All of that data gives them tremendous power. And that power begets more power, and more profit. On one hand, the data can be used to make their tools and services better, which is good for consumers. These companies are able to learn what we want based on the way we use their products, and can adjust them in response to those needs. Access to such sweeping amounts of data also allows these giants to spot trends early and move on them, which sometimes involves buying up a smaller company before it can become a competitive threat. Pasquale points out that Google/Alphabet has been using its power "to bully or take over rivals and adjacent businesses" at a rate of about "one per week since 2010." But it's not just newer or smaller tech companies that are at risk, says Taplin. "When Google and Facebook control 88 per cent of all new internet advertising, the rest of the internet economy, including things like online journalism and music, are starved for resources."

Traditionally, this is where the antitrust regulators would step in, but in the data economy it's not so easy. What we're seeing for the first time is a clash between the concept of the nation state and these global, borderless corporations. A handful of tech giants now surpass the size and power of many governments.

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Your Personal Information Is Now the World's Most Valuable Commodity

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Corporations do not eclipse the size or the power of any government: governments hold a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

  • Through a VPN.

    Good luck Google figuring out who I am.

    When you start sending me a check every month for my percentage – I'll take 75% thanks – then I'll rethink

    • by Anonymous Coward

      2 words. Browser fingerprinting.

      • For people who frequently post text add linguistic fingerprinting and coincidence detection (ie. you discuss the same subjects in different places in the same contexts/timeframe).

        AI won't be able to drive a car any time soon, but associating the identity of a frequent forum poster across multiple forums is pretty easy for them.

    • > Through a VPN.

      > Good luck Google figuring out who I am.

      The cookies are a pretty good giveaway. So is "Location Data" gathered by various Google apps and Google sharing apps on your cell phone and wifi-based devices, even without GPS information.

  • Three of five sell things. The other two sell access to you.

    Data isn't as important as pundits would like to believe.

    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @10:22PM (#55087723)

      Data isn't as important as pundits would like to believe.

      Well he did save Picard's life.

    • Something can be a tiny minority of the total market but still be the "most valuable" single thing. If you have 298 items at 0.3% value and one thing .6% it's double the size of its competition but still small relatively speaking. It is a bit misleading I think on the headline. It makes it sound like data is now 50%+ of the commodity market which would be silly since spending 51% of the economy on the data to sell 49% of goods and services would be bad advertising spending even if the goods and services

  • ... to them is next to nothing; even when great swaths of the tech community manage to boycott/complain, they know it's just a drop in the bucket. All they have to do is take minimal pains to marginalize our concerns in the eyes of Joe Blow and they've all but won.
    • even when great swaths of the tech community manage to boycott/complain

      A tiny sliver of the tech community complains and even fewer boycott.

      Google tracks me. In exchange I get a really nice search engine, free email, free cloud storage, a great browser, and a full suite of office applications. I also see more interesting ads that are at least somewhat correlated with my interests. Why should I complain?

      • In the past year, I've tried to do more browsing on a tablet. I also have no apps installed and block no ads. I mostly want to see what others see, and try this mobile revolution out. I also don't buy much online.

        In this entire time, I've seen very few ads that make sense. I see ads for cars, some of those kinda make sense but I'm definitely not in the market for a new Toyota - I drive a bespoke BMW as my daily driver.

        I do see ads for a company that sells barn doors. That's kinda appropriate but the barns a

  • Data gathering, like self-driving cars, is mostly hype. Buyers of advertising hope it is valid, but I don't see evidence that the data produces cost effective profits for them. The data is dirty to the point of being nearly useless.

    Additionally, you can be certain that their data about you, as an individual, is largely in error. Just as the Annual Credit Reports are full of errors, and the No Fly List is full of errors, they just can't assemble their data coherently yet. If ever. They assume, for instance t

    • It does not necessarily matter that the data is dirty. It only matters that globs of money can be spent a tiny bit more efficiently than the crappy way it was spent 20 years ago, to make this new kind of advertising exciting...to people who care about advertising.

      For example, big automakers spent a few hundred million a year for advertising. They believe this kind of budget is in the right ballpark based on decades of experience. They are not naive. They do understand that individual advertising efforts

    • Data gathering, like self-driving cars, is mostly hype. Buyers of advertising hope it is valid, but I don't see evidence that the data produces cost effective profits for them. The data is dirty to the point of being nearly useless.

      Additionally, you can be certain that their data about you, as an individual, is largely in error. Just as the Annual Credit Reports are full of errors, and the No Fly List is full of errors, they just can't assemble their data coherently yet. If ever. They assume, for instance that your IP address is only used by you. That is until they find you purchasing women's wear, infant and adult diapers and men's motorcycle boots. How can they parse that information into a statistically valid conclusion?

      It's safe to say that we can easily confuse all but the most dedicated trackers. Most users do without even trying.

      Based on your theory, I would expect any minute now the cost of a 30-second Superbowl ad to plummet by 90%, along with most of the demand for commercial advertising and internet ads.

      Yes, we'll be able to shut down our ad blockers any day now, since most data is worthless...

  • data ain't doing so good, then.
  • Repeating the obvious seems increasingly pointless, but: Unless we are given control over our personal information, then freedom becomes meaningless. With sufficient personal information about you I can force you or prevent you from doing anything. It's not just the bad stuff that can be used as a sticks to threaten you, but even the good stuff that can be used as carrots to manipulate you. (Check my sig.)

    Easier to make the example clear by personifying it, so: Controlling your personal information means de

    • Ferengi rules of acquisition comes to mind.

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        I never developed a taste for TNG. The holodeck was too much of a cop-out for me. However, I looked at the relevant Wikipedia article, and it sounds like more of Roddenberry's wolfish social commentary disguised in sheepish SF clothing. If so, and as I understand it now, I would approach the analysis from the perspective of healthy greed versus sickness. A certain amount of greed is just driving "the pursuit of happiness", and that's not a bad thing, but when your greed reaches the point that you are willin

    • Not only would I prefer not to see people with negative reputations, but I'd actually prefer to filter on a relative basis in terms of people who are clearly much better than me.

      You've got a game theory problem there: why would those better people want to see you?

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Excellent point, and they might not. I don't see that as a real problem, however. The time they don't waste on me is more time that they can spend doing the good things that earned their high reputations.

        I actually feel bothered when I intrude on the attention of such people, even when they reply to my questions in a kind way. Among other time-saving tools, I would like them to use celebrity email systems that would handle routine questions and reactions without consuming any of their valuable time. Again,

  • There is no privacy, everything you do is tracked. If you live in a cabin in the woods you will be known by the mail you receive or the web sites you visit. I bought some things from a web store and then got ads from sites offering similar items.
  • According to "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley" [amzn.to] by Antonio Garcia Martinez, who combined Facebook data with third-party demographic data to determine the identity of a user either logged in or browsing anonymously, there's no such thing as online privacy. And the author ain't sorry for compromising online privacy in this podcast [wnyc.org].
    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      And the author ain't sorry for compromising online privacy in this podcast

      I guess it's understandable since some ain't sorry for compromising online privacy with amazon affiliate links.

    • Anybody considering buying that book but not wanting to give an affiliate bonus to creimer can buy this used copy [abebooks.com] at abebooks.com for $5.46 with $3.99 shipping.

  • by theweatherelectric ( 2007596 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:10PM (#55087857)

    What we're seeing for the first time is a clash between the concept of the nation state and these global, borderless corporations.

    No, this is not the first time. The East India Company [wikipedia.org], for example, had immense power at its height.

  • Own your own data.
    Publish your data under license.
    Restrict usage of your data.
    If it is valuable, they will pay you something to use your data.

  • I find it very hard to believe that the day to day details of how I barely slide into payday with a dollar left in my wallet can somehow be transformed into wealth by the 1%. Long ago I heard the phrase "physical economy" uttered by Lyndon LaRouche... and it has stuck with me ever since... show me how this information actually results in a widget being manufactured somewhere, and isn't just a bit in a bank account... and I might believe you.

    I make gears for a living... I understand how the value I put i

    • The power of this information is in aggregate.

      The knowledge that you make gears for $1 each, and buy springs for $2 each, may be useless.
      The knowledge that there are 50,000 people like you, may also be useless.

      But, add the knowledge that there are 50,000 other people making springs for $1 each and paying $2 for gears, and now you can place a bunch of orders, make a deal with a shipping company, sell gears and springs for $1.75 each, and make approximately $70,000 from one round of sales... And you've saved

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday August 26, 2017 @06:42AM (#55088751)

    While oil was the world's most valuable resource, it has been surpassed by data, as evidenced by the five most valuable companies in the world today -- Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google's parent company Alphabet.

    Why base it on market capitalization? As the dot-com bubble showed, that's an extremely variable and unreliable way to measure a company's success.

    Based on annual revenue [fortune.com] - you know, how much these companies actually sell, which seems like a more relevant measure if you're talking about how valuable their product is - the listed companies rank:

    #9 Apple
    #26 Amazon
    #65 Alphabet
    #69 Microsoft
    #393 Facebook

    The top ten companies based on revenue are:

    #1 Walmart (retail)
    #2 State Grid (Chinese electricity utility)
    #3 Sinopec Group (oil)
    #4 China National Petroleum (oil)
    #5 Toyota Motor (auto)
    #6 Volkswagen (auto)
    #7 Royal Dutch Shell (oil)
    #8 Berkshire Hathaway (finance)
    #9 Apple (tech)
    #10 Exxon Mobil (oil)

    So based on value of sales, the world's most valuable commodity remains oil.

    The top ten companies based on profit [fortune.com] are:

    #1 Apple (tech)
    #2 JP Morgan Chase (finance)
    #3 Berkshire Hathaway (finance)
    #4 Wells Fargo (finance)
    #5 Gilead Sciences (pharmaceuticals)
    #6 Verizon (telecom)
    #7 Citigroup (finance)
    #8 Alphabet (tech)
    #9 Exxon Mobil (oil)
    #10 Bank of America (finance)

    So based on profit, the world's most valuable commodity is financial services.

    Revenue = how much you actually sell
    Profit = how strong your sales are (delta between supply and demand)
    Market cap = investors (including clueless ones) placing bets

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You and your silly facts. It's feelings that matter now. I need to believe that someone is oppressing me to fuel my outrage against the man. The white man is stealing my data. Quick, somebody tell me where the closest statue is. "Hey Siri! Where's the closest statue of a white man?"

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As if the stock market isn't white supremacist institution.

        Remember folks, if white people do it, it's white supremacy. If non-white people do it, its liberation. "It" being pretty much anything and everything.

        So go kys white people, you're a stain on humanity and must be eradicated.

    • Interesting! I agree that oil and financial services are the foundations of today's economy. But is the information being collected also a foundation or will be a future foundation since the stock market is forward-looking? I think so. The future economy will be even more dependent on our personal information and already today many businesses do depend on it. The market cap numbers are future-looking. The values may be off a little bit but the trend toward personal information being very important is c
  • ummmmm, duuhhhh. Put out as much fake data as you can about yourself. May as well make it funny.

  • Oil is still the most important resource. Try and warm yourself in winter with personal data. Making fertilizer to feed 100s of millions. Building roads and other infrastructure. Doesn't work!
  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    Just as long as they acknowledge the value of that information when they take it from me. And compensate me for it properly.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe

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