A few weeks ago, there was a minor leak, in one of the bathrooms in our apartment. So, we called the plumber. When the plumber visited, we granted him access to come through the lobby and enter our studio. Now, since the affected bathroom was in the innermost part of our apartment, he had to walk through the living room, kitchen, study, and other bedrooms. For the work purpose, he had to go back and forth a few times, and finally, he fixed the leak. I am sure he would have had a glimpse of what is around, every time he passed by.
The real issue is
Now that he has gone, we will not grant him access again, unless it is required. But…what happens to the information (or say the intel) he might have gathered throughout this single transaction?
Can he go out and sell that information to anyone else?
Is it okay if some notorious party gets to know my apartment layout and points of ingress?
Should I appreciate if they get to know some of the intricate details of things inside of my apartment and they decide to send me unsolicited flyers, phone calls (plumber had my number) and (so-called tailored) offers?
Would you like any of that?
If you believe this is unacceptable, how any of what Google, Facebook or LinkedIn do becomes acceptable? Are they not acquiring our personal information in the name of providing services and then selling them to others for a fee?
Would I (or you) have allowed the plumber in my apartment, if he has told me up front that he could divulge all that he sees to anyone of his choice?
Could a plumber (or similar handyman) make me sign a long T&C with fine prints that can let them do whatever they want with the acquired information while providing services? Do we even have any recourse to that type of a situation?
The argument of free stuff
Someone might jump off now and make a “free stuff” argument at this stage and say that it is okay because their (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn; let’s call them GFL) services are free.
We are generally tempted to receive things that are free graciously. Moreover, that might pose a significant problem when it comes to technology usage.
Think about this for a moment. Is it worth receiving those things for free?
Unless it is entirely natural, I think there is nothing else that could be free. Everything has a price, and it must be paid. The price may not be in the form of some currency, or it could be your valuable time, personal and private data, or maybe all of these!
These free offerings often act as bait, that is, you are getting them open free because you (may) have been tricked to give something away (for free) too!
What are you giving away? Think!
Maybe that the price = 0 — because the value it brings = 0.
Well, of course, that is not the case with GFL, they have something to offer that has some usefulness. However, how do you compare the value of what they provide with what you give in return? Is there even a comparison?
Also, if the free stuff is precious, it is essential to know, who is shelling out that cost and why are they doing it, what is in it for them?
I reckon that the transparency in such business practices is what a free user should demand and finally, the user should be in charge.
Time to charge for our data
Sometimes I think this private data sharing fuss is all about companies using it without compensating us dearly for it. Maybe because they can squeeze more value from our data than we can from their services. This apparent imbalance is perhaps a real source of the issue.
I think this imbalance can be cured if we start charging GFL and similar businesses for sharing every piece of our data (I do not know how we can do that for now, I am sure there is a strong reason to do it though).
We can select what we want or do not want to share, and get paid accordingly in cash ($$$) and in kind (their free services).
What do you think about selling our data for money and make it official?
Do you have any ideas about how this can be done?
How do you think we can persuade GFL and others to consider this as a fairer business model?
Note: This piece was lying in my drafts for several days until I read and commented on Jason’s article on LinkedIn. It has a slightly different angle on this issue.
About the Author: I help businesses to find and solve meaningful problems, often using emerging technologies and innovative methods together. My focus is — sensible adoption of technology. I am also the author of an award-winning book on the Internet of Things.