Selling my data? CUT ME IN, bitches.

Casey Quinlan
Sep 11, 2017 · 3 min read

If you spend any time at all using a smartphone, and/or surfing the web with a tablet or a computer, you’re generating wads of data on your activities. That data is a gold mine for marketers and business intel factories around the world.

If you doubt me, just go plug the phrase “how companies collect and sell customer data” into Google (you can just click that link to do it, lazybones), and you’ll see right at the top that not only are commercial interests doing this, they’re paying Google ad money to show up at the top of the list for those search terms.

It’s easy to go through your days/weeks/months/years blissfully unaware of this. In fact, you’ve probably liked having targeted “you might like” product and content stuff offered up to you, on everything from Amazon to Facebook to Google searches, to make things “easier” to find.

My personal feeling about this is that I have no problem with commercial enterprises selling my data, but … if they’re minting coin (and they are, at enterprise scale) off MY data and MY activity, CUT. ME. IN. bitches.

I’m not alone in this POV. Imagine my surprise/delight at reading, in Foreign Policy, an article titled “It’s Time to Found a New Republic” in which the authors lay out a strong case for a re-tuned data economy for the realities of the 21st century world.

The “money graf” from the Foriegn Policy piece

In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission decided to take a look at the business of “data brokering” (hey, the feds are never the first to the party, amirite?), and two years later published a report (I repeat, the feds ain’t fast) with the following recommendations:

  • Data brokers should strive to assess their collection practices and, to the extent practical, collect only the data they need and properly dispose of the data as it becomes less useful. (Translation: give us control over the shelf-life of our own data.)
  • Data brokers should take reasonable precautions to ensure that
    downstream users of their data do not use it for eligibility determinations or for unlawful discriminatory purposes. (Translation: the fact that someone in your family has HIV should not be made available to your bank.)
  • Congress should consider legislation that would provide consumers with
    transparency when a company uses a risk mitigation product that limits a consumer’s ability to complete a transaction. (Sound familiar, Equifax breach buddies?)

Remember when you were a kid, and someone in authority — usually a teacher — would threaten you with “this is going on your permanent record”? The only “permanent record” is your digital data. And that shit is EVERYWHERE. So why, if someone is selling it, are we not compensated for that contribution to commercial enterprise?

This is the first salvo in a series of [some number bigger than one] posts on this topic. Next week, we’ll talk about what I call the Big Kahuna of Data Brokering Icebergs, the machines selling our medical records and health data in service of the medical-industrial complex in the US. You know, the one hoovering up over $3T (that’s trillion, with a T) per year in exchange for really crap American health.

That’s where we REALLY should be cut in, bitches.

Read Part Deux of this series here.

Casey Quinlan

Written by

The Mighty Mouth: #epatient, fire-starter, journalist. Healthcare Is HILARIOUS! podcaster. Support the work: https://www.patreon.com/mightycasey

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