What Is My Data Worth?

Jan 23, 2022

In the 21st century, data is being defined as the new oil, which when utilized appropriately can lead to significant returns. Oil has historically been considered a commodity, but data is an asset – one that grows with use. A single customers dataset may not be very valuable, but combining datasets, can create very interesting insights and value depending on the viewpoint of the stakeholder. These datasets can be used to identify trends, discover anomalies and create value from the information. 

Key Data Types

Personally Identifiable Information (PII): general term that is used to describe any form of sensitive data that could be used to identify or contact an individual. This includes name, address, sex, e-mail, driver’s license, etc. 

Protected Health Information (PHI): medical information that can potentially identify an individual, that was created, used or disclosed while providing healthcare services, whether it was a diagnosis or treatment. This includes health conditions, vaccination status, allergies, medications, health card information, etc. 

Technology Company Value of your Data

From the viewpoint of a technology company (such as Facebook, Google, etc.), the vast amounts of data collected is analyzed and insights are generated to make money specifically from selling advertisements. Facebook had generated billions of dollars in revenue by selling the users (and their preferences) to advertisers using sophisticated algorithms. These algorithms can display advertisements based on the user interests, location and behavior while browsing other websites as well as the use of in-built functionality such as games or clicks on links. From a negative perspective, these algorithms can be used to find ways to manipulate your opinion with potentially damaging political or social campaigns to try and influence your actions and behavior.

An internal Facebook study found that 64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms steered them there.


Are “free” Apps really free

From the Netflix movie – The Social Dilemma: if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.  Use of free apps onto mobile devices from the Google and Apple Appstore’s has been skyrocketing with billions of downloads because we all love free-of-cost applications or services. 

However, this results in the user voluntarily “paying” with their personal data. This data is then monetized by the app provider and sold to interested organizations who then can run their unique and proprietary algorithms to derive information about the user. The organizations that make some of these algorithms probably understand the users better that the users understand themselves. In many cases, the user is not even aware how and with whom their data is being shared e.g., location-based services, car manufacturers, social meetups, extremist groups and big-box stores to name a few.

The biggest asset for many of these technology companies such as social media organizations, video game providers, etc., is the massive amount of user data for people worldwide.


Value of your data to hackers

Datasets belonging to users and stored by large technology corporations, especially social media organizations are a treasure trove for hackers. It is common practice that users frequently post details regarding family members and relationships, likes and dislikes, places visited and current location.

The personal information provided on social media by users is the make-up of secret authentication questions for highly sensitive transactional functions, such as banking and health service providers. Hence a hack on social media organization could reveal the responses to a user’s secret questions. Secondly, it is common practice to use the same username and password across applications, so this information may also have been compromised.

The table below highlights the average price of user data on the Darkweb – websites that are usually accessible using special browsers where users can hide their identities and carry out anonymous transactions. 

This data is commonly used to carry out illegal transactions such as unauthorized use of payment card information or short-term (quick limited transactional) and long-term identity theft (overall takeover of user identity for longer term benefits such as illegal immigration, use of health benefits, etc.).

With the recent advancements in digital enablement including rapid digitalization due to COVID-19, it can be argued that data is potentially more valuable than oil due to the insight and knowledge that can be derived and used to make strategic and tactical decisions.

Hence, it is imperative that all users be careful with the data they share on social media websites and apps.  It is helpful for users to understand how their data may be used if it falls into the wrong hands, because if you aren’t paying for it, doesn’t mean it’s “free”.

At MALTO Group, our goal is to be the preferred partner of choice to support both our clients and contractors in their journey to success. MALTO Group provides the best-in-class consulting and recruitment solutions for all Information Technology (IT) requirements of organizations within a large spectrum of industries. You can contact us directly at [email protected] if you have questions.

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