I recently heard data described as the oil of the internet, the lifeblood that keeps the World Wide Web spinning and a currency for savvy consumers to trade. But is trading your data for online discounts fair, or even safe?
According to a recent talk by media futurist Gerd Leonhard, it would seem that many under 28 year olds would think so – or are at least prepared to take the risk.
The internet is in its third decade and still rapidly evolving in ways that were unpredictable just years ago. Plus, the way we use the web has evolved drastically too.
Emails were exciting at first, but are now often seen as a nuisance. More and more of us are shopping online, whether on our computer or mobile. And secrets are no longer safe online, where Wikileaks and super-injunction busting Tweets expose all.
Your personal data as online currency
E-privacy has been a major concern for a long time, but in the wake of the recent hack of Sony’s PlayStation Network, it’s more relevant than ever. Sony’s PlayStation incident shows just how valuable your data is, and nicely illustrates how data piracy has become a serious organised-crime.
But Sony’s hack was all about bank details and passwords, which everyone can recognise as having value. But what about age, preferences, email addresses and income – where’s the value in that? To a marketing agency it all means money, with this personal data being sought and traded by legitimate bodies, at a high price.
Letting cookies track your online habits mean companies can target you with more relevant advertising, and providing your email gives them a direct route to your inbox. It’s great for marketers, as they needn’t waste cash finding their audience or otherwise serving blanket ads to all and sundry – but what are the benefits for us?
Is your online data your biggest commodity?
This is what web users are beginning to explore more willingly. And according to Gerd Leonhard, it’s the under 28s that have the greater propensity to do so. Entering an email address when making an online purchase is enough to make some shoppers head down to the high street, even when the cost is higher.
Other customers, however, are willing to subscribe to an occasional email for a cheaper price – and even go a few steps further. Indeed, online shoppers are quickly learning that the more data they give away, the greater discount they can get.
And the offers can swell with people power. To a marketing company, the data of a single person has great leverage, but the data of a group of people is seriously mouth-watering. Group buying gives clusters of consumers a lot more power – forget the discounts, these guys want to use their data for freebies and exclusives.
But where do you draw the line? I still exercise prudence and keep my personal data cards relatively close to my chest, but my caginess is beginning to soften. I’m still watchful of what I share online and who it’s shared with – but am I being too cautious?
Perhaps I should just embrace the potential of data sharing and take advantage of it for a healthy discount, before everybody else does.