Putting a Price Tag on Privacy
How much is your online data really worth?

by Lee Schafer / © 2018, Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


By now, Facebook users seem to finally get that they may not get charged anything for using the social networking service, but it sure isn’t free, not after being subjected to ad after spookily tailored ad.

  Yet users still seem to have a long way to go to fully understand what Facebook and the other big tech companies are really doing. And, of course, Facebook seems just as far away from delivering what consumers clearly seem to want.

  That’s my pessimistic conclusion from a new research note by the venture capital firm Loup Ventures of Minneapolis, in which managing partner Doug Clinton answered the question of what the online data of a single U.S. user are really worth.

  Clinton and his Loup partners are technology optimists, with Clinton saying that people should expect at least a few problems with pretty much all innovations that make their lives better.

  He started looking into the topic of what he called social data not because of Facebook’s [recent] privacy scandal but by puzzling over technical solutions for locking up and then selling one’s own personal data. One problem Loup found here—which is that a user’s not worth nearly as much to Facebook as consumers seem to think—seems to also suggest that Facebook has a lot of work ahead to regain consumer trust.


The price of ‘free’

  The problem with free, of course, is that the entrepreneurs had to get their money from someone in order to have a business. That meant selling advertising.

  Facebook promised ads in front of the eyeballs of just the right person, having learned who that was by closely paying attention to what its users did online.


What’s my data worth?

  Last year, Facebook generated about $19.5 billion in U.S. and Canada ad revenue from its average monthly active users of more than 235 million, working out to about $82 each. Pare that amount back, applying things like expenses and taxes, and the value of their data per user is about $20.72.



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