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How valuable is personal data?

Posted on: Monday 13th of October 2014

How much is data – especially personal data – worth?

It’s becoming a vexed question. Not long ago, most consumers had no idea their data was valuable. Now, that’s changing fast. According to a recent Orange study mobile users in the UK, France, Spain and Poland think their location and demographic data is worth, on average, £140 to brands.

Perhaps more tellingly, just 6% in the survey felt that consumers benefit most from sharing data, with 67% saying that businesses benefit more. Sentiments like this are fuelling a growing number of services, such as datacoup and datarepublic, that promise to help consumers monetise their own data.

For companies whose business models depend on the collection and use of personal data, these shifts are significant. It’s one thing for consumers to be concerned about ‘privacy’ – a rather amorphous subject which is easy to end up doing nothing about. Value and fairness are something else – much more likely to drive behaviour change. The more aware consumers are of the value of their data, the sharper the focus on the value exchange.

And while awareness is growing, awareness isn’t necessarily the same as understanding as new research from Intel shows. Intel’s concern is that with growing awareness comes increasing distrust, which in turn is “inhibiting discovery and innovation”.

Missing the point?

Consumers’ growing awareness of the commercial value of their data is part of the Perfect Storm now brewing around personal data. But there is a sense in which the debate is still missing the point.

There are two questions that need answering about the value of personal data:

1)   How valuable is an individual’s data to the organisations using that data for various purposes?

2)   How valuable is the individual’s data to the individual – how could individuals use their own data to add value in their own lives?

Question 2 is the epicentre of a potential explosion of innovation; of new personal information management services that help individuals in multiple roles as consumers, customers, citizens, patients, audiences, householders  etc ‘do stuff’ with their own data, such as streamline administrative and other chores, make better decisions and plan, organise and orchestrate life episodes and events.

Prediction: As individuals being to realise the value of their data to themselves, as well as others, their attitudes and behaviours will begin to change even more radically and decisively.