Our world is created, shaped and manipulated by data. Everyday, you are bombarded by ads, offers, environmental changes, decisions, and more. Billions of data points affect you and somewhere, a person like me or others are collecting that data. In a free market economy, companies are at war with each other and consumers are both the beneficiaries and the casualties of this non stop battle to control your buying power.

Data is a primary weapon in this battle and some companies use this weapon for good while others don’t. You can’t win (trust me, I know) but if you are wise, you can use it to your advantage.

Corporate Responsibility
What is the role of the organization when it comes to your information? In states like California, they are adopting rules that assist consumers in blocking a companies ability to use your information. There are pros and cons to this but it will likely continue until better regulations are in place to control your data. The United States has always been “let the buyer beware” but in the last ten to fifteen years, we have seen the societal shift of less personal accountability. I look at it as a market feature more than anything else.

A company has the responsibility to keep your data safe and secure. Their terms and conditions give them the right to use it as they see fit. If you use their products and services, there is a trade off.

Why do you think so many apps you use are ‘free’?

You are a walking tracking device.
Yes. Just accept it. The Police said it best…

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you

Oh can’t you see? You belong to THEM. They know every aspect of your life. And you love it. You skip through all those long terms and conditions just to get that new app that everyone is talking about on Twitter or Instagram. You give them rights to your data (and in some cases all your friends data) in exchange for seeing a random question appear above your head and tell you something funny about you. Some other examples…

Starbucks knows how many times a week you visit their stores and potentially has access to other places you buy coffee. They know your patterns and can inject ads/influences to manipulate those patterns.

Apple knows how active you are and generally every aspect of your life. Steps, heart rates, locations, apps, interests and with the new Apple Card, many people are switching their buying over to a card that is completed integrated with every move and communication they make. That kind of power (data IS power) is crazy to fathom, knowing what I know. But yet we still offer this up freely to them.

Amazon is capitalizing on the purchasing market. There are relatively few households in America that do not have an Amazon account. How do you think Amazon can afford to ship everything so fast and free? Because your data is vastly more valuable than some small shipping cost.

Reality Mining
Ive written about this on this blog since 2012. I think I was one of the first people to change the narrative and predict the current data economy. It use to be about “data mining” and looking at how a group of people are purchasing and reacting to that. Now, you can see that you can be influenced at the time of purchase. And the more data they have, the more you can be influenced. And since 2008, social media networks have been gathering enough data to influence the current generation of buyers. Companies are using influencers and behavior data to shape our buying patterns, create markets where none exist and in those voids, capture data to sell to other companies.

I’ve stated it before, and I stand by my prediction that exchanges will be set up that will allow people to sell their information to organizations.

Global Data Supply Chain
Data, it’s our true currency. Money is a by-product. There are sources of data, sharers of data and users of data. In that order. The further you are up the list, the more money you stand to make. Sources make the most. If our economy is a human body, data would be the blood. Users carry data to the heart, social media and the internet carry data away from the heart. It’s a never ending cycle and requires new content daily. We have gotten so used to having new data that our attention spans have virtually disappeared.

Why do you think that despite all the shows/movies on Netflix you can never find something to watch? Interesting.

Sacrifice (Barter)
In our demand driven economy, we crave content. Younger generations are spending 33% of their waking moments with their eyes fixed on their phones. People are complaining about privacy yet multiple times per week they zip through terms and conditions that state they are giving this information freely to companies in order to not pay for an application (benefit me now). It’s a fair trade.

The meaning of privacy is changing. There really isn’t any true privacy when it comes to your data. If you live in the internet world, everything in your life is tracked. Even if you say “don’t track me”, there is still a footprint and there is no guarantee that 3rd parties aren’t being sold your data, even at an anonymous level.

What now?
It is an exciting time to be alive. Immersed in data, our world saturates us daily with outside influences and constant feedback loops drive this data back into platforms and subtle changes occur that change those behaviors the next time around. If you are aware of these influences, you can use this to your advantage. You can change how you buy a car, shop for groceries, insurance. Almost everything you do daily has some kind of influencer model built into it. If you are a 20-30 year old single female with no children, there is a model for you. Same with all other demographics and behavioral characteristics.

And it is not stopping anytime soon.