According to The Economist, data—not oil—has become the world’s most valuable resource. Think about that for a second. Your Google searches, your social media profiles, and even your Amazon purchase history could be worth more now than any other commodity in the world. It explains how Facebook reported more than $55 billion in revenue in 2018, and why Microsoft paid an estimated $26.2 billion to acquire LinkedIn (and therefore all the detailed information for the networking site’s 100+ million users).
User data has become the single most valuable asset in the world, and whether you realize it or not, it has a direct effect on your private life.
How companies use this information
Roughly a few dozen companies control this increasingly comprehensive set of user data (of nearly infinite worth). A recent MIT study found that while companies invest highly in profile data mining, they were more concerned with categorizing it than the actual repercussions. According to the study:
“All the companies we studied were awash in data, and the volume of their stored data was growing on average by 40% per year. We expected this explosion of data would place pressure on management to know which data was most valuable. However, the majority of companies reported they had no formal data valuation policies in place.”
Key takeaways include how the 18 to 24-year-old demographic is the most valuable in the eyes of advertisers. Additionally, significant life milestones, which including buying a house or leasing a new car, can also make your data more lucrative.
Putting a price on your data
While it’s currently impossible to put an exact numerical amount on your online data, some marketers estimate users’ cumulative information could hover somewhere in the hundreds of millions.
That said, the bigger picture here isn’t how much your data is worth; it’s how it’s others use it.
The world’s top 5 biggest companies by market value in 2018 were Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Facebook. It’s no coincidence that all of these companies deal in data. In fact, these five give a combined market value of 3763.2 billion. What’s even more shocking is how much experts predict these companies will continue to grow.
Google now claims over 90% of the world’s desktop search traffic, meaning that it has almost full access to worldwide search data and user footprints. Imagine how much info companies like Google and Facebook have on you, or what would happen if this data were to fall into the wrong hands.
Your privacy now has a price tag on it.