In the beginning, collection of consumer information was carried out by banks and supermarkets, which tracked your travels and consumption patterns, but also your credit card purchases and bank transfers. Then, with the rise of new technologies and the advent of the data giants these past 10 years, they are now capable of analyzing many of your behaviors by using the data that you consciously (or not) leave behind.
Your identity is, therefore, requested and oriented around your digital lifestyle. Some practices implemented by the giants can even be massive and intrusive. Indeed, your attention is not only captured in downtime but also in times of availability, while you are on a subway platform or between two television shows. Moreover, many sharing, co-working and retail/e-commerce websites, etc. offer free services. However, behind this caring appearance lies a genuine data resale market-driven economy.
Yes, your attention is monetizable.
You can see the results by being faced with ongoing solicitations and the explosion of targeted advertising. Thanks to data, web giants display personalized and interest-based ads in your digital ecosystem. Among the collected data, they gather three types of information in your history: your visited websites, your search engine entries and your online purchases. This data is the essential raw material for these web actors to carry out market studies and to set individual user profiles.
As you use social platforms for free, they are not without a price: your privacy. Web actors, like Facebook and Google, offer free services to their users in order to exploit their personal data. This data monetization is questioned by some users, who have become gradually aware of the value of their personal data. These firms sell their products by touching a wide audience in exchange for your privacy.
On the other hand, they are using personal data from your “friends”.
Facebook indirectly encourages you to have the largest number of friends, so that you become credible within the Facebook community. The more you indirectly have friends, the more your friends reveal their personal data but also yours, such as your device position, your activities, your thoughts, etc.
The dilemma of the algorithm transparency is that it falls under proprietary information, which is at the heart of the funding of these platforms. Google’s argument is that its business cannot reveal its algorithm since this would distort the results and enable everyone to promote its website by sharing the rules of its algorithm.
The explanation of keeping unknown the algorithm helps to maintain a certain neutrality.
However, in reality it also helps in a non-transparent manner to promote their own content first.
Currently in France, Google dominates the market with 40% of the access to information on websites, compared to Facebook and Twitter at (only) 19% each. The economic dependency is huge because digital dealers finance themselves through advertising resources of their affiliates.
Digital leaders are able to take advantage of their position to publicize their product on the Web without committing a lot financially.
However, this data monopoly will be changed soon and hardened for data businesses.
One year from now (May 2018) the new European regulation on personal data protection will enter into force. Under the name of General Data Protection Regulation, it aims to strengthen the protection of personal data by better framing the conditions of data conservation and reuse. Moreover, the regulation strengthens the law to provide people with a right to their data portability.
So companies will have to specifically give proof of prior consent when they are collecting data. The implementation of this regulation will help you get more transparency into the business of processing and outsourcing data.