2013 was an big year for my data. My Likes and interests, playlists, location data, shopping history and selfies continue to accumulate across a growing set of apps and social networks.
Scores of companies now bid in real-time for the right to show me an ad in my Facebook newsfeed, based on what they’ve seen me do across the web. My computers, smartphones and tablets have been “fingerprinted” again and again, and marketers are working hard to associate my devices with each other to create a 360-degree, 24×7 view of me as a marketing target.
Because I choose to use Google Now’s information assistant, Google logs my location whenever I have my smartphone with me. As I move through retail and public spaces, marketers also track me through my phone’s Wi-Fi signal (unless I’ve taken action).
I’ve shared a wide variety of data points (including my name, picture and a list of my friends) with scores of app makers, leaving bits about me here and there beyond any practical hope of retrieval.
And of course, on top of all of this commercial data collection, it’s now clear that the government has, if they want it, complete access to most everything I do online.
So my Christmas wish this year is to have more power over my data. I want intelligent systems that control the flow of my data, and I want to know who knows what about me, and what they can do with it.
As much as possible, I want to be able to retrieve data that I no longer want in the field. And in time, I want to be able to put my data more to work in creating value directly to me, and not just to the companies marketing to me.
Yes, it’s optimistic to hope for this. But given how fast the data collection industry has grown through technology, perhaps it’s not crazy to expect rapid advances in the tools for data empowerment (and you can bet we’re hard at work helping to make those tools).
It won’t come overnight, and it won’t come in the form of some monolithic killer app. But I’m watching for it to happen bit by bit as we start to understand and act upon the value of our own data stream.
December 17, 2013