Your data is worth more than chocolate, so stop selling yourself short

The new free data age is a scary place

As a TechRadar reader, you're savvier than most when it comes to what personal data you share. You've revised your Facebook settings away from the default 'share everything to all people everywhere' and you pause for thought before you hit the 'allow this app to know information about your inside leg measurement' button.

But this, I'm afraid, is just the very tip of the iceberg.

The signs are already pretty ominous and you don't have to dig very far before you hit someone with expertise who is already screaming about the dangers involved with a new free data age.

A few weeks ago Raj Samani, CTO for McAfee EMEA was talking at a Vision for the Web in 2050 get together arranged ahead of IP EXPO Europe. He told the assembled journalists and industry figures that he was 'scared' of some of the ways in which people's data was being frittered away.

"What's worrying is the willingness of consumers to hand over data for almost next to nothing," he said.

"12 months ago in [UK Shopping centre] Westfield, a confectioner was giving away free chocolate and there was a line of people like lemmings queuing to give over their data for an Easter egg.

"They wanted the person's demographic, their contact details and all kinds of other details.

"So I see the perceived value of data declining at such an alarming rate - we value our personal data so little and yet the big companies are paying more for that exact data."

In other words, hundreds of thousands of us, be it on Facebook or in signing up for an app's service (or free chocolate Easter egg) are unaware of how much this data is worth to companies - and perhaps more importantly how that data in someone else's hands could be problematic.

The potential value of data to insurers is the most obvious way of pointing out how sharing data can have negative consequences for the consumer. It could be overt, like car insurance providers giving out black box recorders for your car. Or it could be more covert (and currently futuristic), like a health insurer upping your premium because your fitness band data shows you spend most of your leisure life on the sofa. But either way, it does matter.

Working out how much your data is worth, and what you are OK with being in the public domain is increasingly something you should be aware of. One thing is for sure: companies are already investing heavily in the data market, and it could be worth a trillion dollars by 2020.

When YouTube was acquired by Google in 2006 it valued each user at around $20 dollars. By 2012 when Instagram was snapped up its users were valued at $30 and then when Whatsapp was bought by Facebook it valued each of us at around $42.

Something we're giving away is being snapped up by corporations who can package it and sell it on. So what's your data really worth? Is privacy really no more valuable than a chocolate Easter egg? Does the hypothetical $42 dollars sound a bit too cheap? Maybe privacy is priceless, and it's time we treated it that way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Global Editor-in-Chief

Patrick (Twitter) is Global Editor-in-Chief for techradar, and has been with the site since its launch in 2008. He is a longstanding judge of the T3 Awards, been quoted or seen on everything from the The Sun to Sky News and is on the #CoolBrands Council. He started his career in football, making him one of approximately one journalists to have covered both a World Cup final and an iPhone launch.