Big Money Talk

Intrigued by the fact that companies like Google and Facebook make millions of dollars using our data, I wondered why we never see one cent in return for this valuable exchange. Sure, it is given that we get to use their apps and services for free, but how does that relate to what we provide in terms of value? Is something truly ever free? If you are not not paying for the product, are you the product?  

 

I discovered that big data brokers sell packs of your data online. The price that the advertisers are willing to pay per person for general information such as age, gender and occupation is around $0.05. Buyers can access the lists of people with specific health conditions or those who take certain prescriptions, who are worth more. The total sum for most individuals is less than a dollar. The data that is being sold is gathered into a typical buying profile like "females interested in beauty" or "males of the ages 20 - 25 interested in technology products". How much would I be worth as a product? How much are my friends worth? Is there also a difference in price because of social status and background? Well,  there sure is.

Through calculations based on my online activity, I found that my activity (mostly consisting of looking at travel vlogs,  2000's music videos and beauty and fitness) was worth a total of €0,15. To illustrate how little this price is in comparison to the huge amount of information we actually give away online, I printed my personal Youtube searches from 2013 to 2017. That is a total of 386 receipts, each more than a meter long, full of my cringe worthy search history. Whew. That is 4 years worth of just Youtube data. For comparisons, I also printed the search history of my friend who is a beginning artist (interested in rap and design), and also that of a young professional teacher at art school (with a penchant for cat videos, memes and education). There was quite a striking difference in price. To highlight these differences, I put us and our search history, completely categorised by age, profession and interests, up for sale as ready-made products you can buy, just as you would online.