The value of Personal and Private Data

Personal Data is currency in the Information Age and is being traded to the tune of billions of dollars globally – and increasing each year as the more personal data is analysed, categorised and linked, the more valuable it becomes.Corporate use of Personal Data, largely through the marketing and advertising industry, is a well understood revenue model that generates 10s of billions of dollars annually.

In the public sector, Personal Data has the potential to make medical services more efficient, reduce diagnosis errors and save lives.  This has a direct impact on society – in countries with welfare states and socialised medicine (such as European member states) – as it reduces the treasury burden required to support these services and allows those funds to either be used elsewhere, for the benefit of society or lead to reduced taxes in the long term.  The use of data can also extend lives which means those people who may previously have died can continue to be productive members of society.

The economic benefits to society in the use of Personal Data in health care should be considered significant, suggesting that there is an indirect value to citizens with regards to the use of their data.

United they stand, divided we fall

Personal Data is a commodity and whoever controls the use of such data stands to profit from it – whether it is the large corporations or the individual. Corporations know how to use, control and how to extract the maximum amount of revenue from the data they collect. This is not the case for the individuals, who are at a distinct disadvantage, and rely on regulators create new rules and legislation to protect them by understanding how new technologies may be used to exploit data in a way which has a negative impact on the fundamental rights of the individual.

By understanding the flow of data – who controls the data, how that data is used and how it impacts people – we empower society to extract the maximum value from their data but not necessarily in obvious tangible ways.

Considering public policy, there is a direct benefit to citizens and society in developing and modernising laws and regulations. There is immeasurable value to these rights and so, in essence, they are “priceless” because they are fundamental rights and their value is absolute.  The deterioration and erosion of core constitutional foundations create a significant risk to democracy and liberty and the loss to society would be profound.

The responsible use of Personal Data allows us to spot trends in misuse, such as discriminatory pricing for health insurance or commodities, and allows measures to be take to prevent such practices so that the value can be realised for citizens.

In conclusion

There are many ways in which citizens can extract direct, indirect, tangible and intangible value from privacy data but there is great scope for research and academic organizations to expand this topic further, through research and supporting evidence to bring more understanding and value to citizens.