How companies make money from your data

Wayne MullinsWith so many connected devices, we’re all producing huge amounts of data. Wayne Mullins, Marketing Executive at CBS, explains how our data can be turned into profit

In 2017 we live in a digital age where more data is being created and captured in every aspect of our daily lives than any other point in history.

What exactly is personal data?

Personal data can be broken up into three distinct categories:

  • Volunteered data: Content which is created and shared by individuals, including their social media profile data.
  • Observed data: This information is captured by recording the actions of the consumer/individual, such as where they live and their socio-economic status.
  • Inferred data: This category is the one with the most practical value. Using the first two types of data brands can pre-empt your sex, age, sexual orientation, interests, employment status and hobbies.

A connected World

The widespread adoption and integration into our lives of the internet and smartphones over the last 20 years, has led to humans producing more recordable data than ever before. The bulk of spending by brands on digital advertising is largely controlled by the duopoly of Facebook and Google, with an 85% share of every dollar/pound spent on digital.

Freedom Isn’t Free

By 2020 there will be an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the internet. This is largely thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). It aims to electronically connect everything from your mobile phone, exercise band and computer, to your kettle, fridge and thermostat. The data being stored and recorded is expected to grow exponentially, eventually being 44 times larger in 2020 than it was in 2009.

How Much is My Personal Data Actually Worth?

Your personal data is worth around £1 in terms of sales for which they pay about £0.0005 or £0.50 per 1,000 persons. While £1 may not sound like much, it is of such value to companies as there are billions of customers making billions of repeat sales, hence the massive gold rush of companies trying to collect and utilise your data.

Big Money

But despite these problems, big data and targeted marketing continue to grow and thrive. Data is now a $300 billion-a-year industry and employs 3 million people in the USA alone while in the UK, £10 billion a year is generated in digital advertising income for publishers and content creators. 

The future of the internet

The internet has largely been free to use up to now and relied on people either being happy to give over their personal information or not caring or knowing enough to prevent it. With more people preventing companies from collecting their personal data using ad-blockers, could this mean that we will start to lose traditionally ‘free’ internet services such as Google and Facebook?

A difficult choice

Are you happy to share your personal data if it means keeping the internet free?

Or do you think your online data should be confidential and kept out of the hands of billion dollar companies?

About the author
Wayne Mullins is a marketing executive at CBS - a respected provider of DBS background checks and Employment Screening systems in the UK.

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November 2017
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