2013-06-14

Calculate The Pathetic Amount Your Personal Data Is Worth

The NSA might be able to tap into your electronic data just like every other company, but it turns out that your personal information isn’t worth much at all—and you can calculate it just to make sure.

It seems like everyone wants your personal data, if not to catch terrorists then to sell you things. But it turns out that data isn’t worth much.

Financial Times has used the prices paid by data brokers to create an interactive calculator. The results are somewhat disappointing: It turns out I’m worth about 15 cents.

Granted, the journalist is not the most coveted of consumers. But FT reports most people are worth less than a dollar. From the article:

General information about a person, such as their age, gender and location is worth a mere $0.0005 per person, or $0.50 per 1,000 people. A person who is shopping for a car, a financial product or a vacation is more valuable to companies eager to pitch those goods. Auto buyers, for instance, are worth about $0.0021 a pop, or $2.11 per 1,000 people.

According to FT’s analysis, if I were a millionaire I’d be worth almost a quarter. But I’d actually be more valuable (41 cents!) if I had acid reflux. The reason is supply and demand: the more personal and private the data, the more brokers will pay to get their hands on it.

If you don’t like the idea of having your private life sold, cheaply or otherwise, there aren’t a lot of options. Tiffany Green at the FTC is quoted as saying you’d have to contact hundreds of thousands of different companies to get out of the system.

On the other hand, some digital advertising companies may be trying to make it easier to at least access and correct that information.

BlueKai, for instance, operates an exchange that facilitates selling of digital data about consumers. People can visit a registry on BlueKai’s website to see details collected about them by other data companies. A visitor can review and correct information about his or her location, professional interests, hobbies and probable purchases, among other categories.

Acxiom says it is in the middle of building a similar service, which for the first time would let consumers see the information it knows about them. Acxiom expects that service to be available as early as this summer.

With competition tightening prices, and the FTC investigating the data brokering industry, that may just be a smart business decision.

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