lundi 11 octobre 2010

Data bartering

Carol Bartz, from Yahoo! often speaks her mind. She calls a spade a spade and, in a recent interview, she even described Facebook as "creepy". The way she sees Facebook is more original and foresighted than it sounds.
  • Journalist (USA Today): "Who is your single biggest competitor?"
  • Carol Bartz: "Facebook — not today, but they could be. If they keep going, they will have the vault of information on everybody in the world, and that's valuable.
Facebook might be "creepy" as she says, but more importantly, it is valuable. Why? Because it is insatiable: it gathers more data (traces of behaviors, words, speech acts, pictures, social graphs, etc.) than any other company on the net, except, maybe, Google.
Further she adds: "This is not like a free lunch here. We just opened a data center in Buffalo, and in its first phase it has 50,000 servers.That is not cheap. So the very fact that you get all this great information is part of the deal."
Follow her logic: people give all their personal data to Facebook to satisify "creepy" needs. If people want a free Internet, they must also pay by giving up data to the websites, webmail and search engines that they use. Free of charge is a lie: at best it is a euphemism. On the Net, data is a currency, your profile, and even your soul, has a price, so go ahead and sell it!
Bartering is key: give me your audience (eyeballs), "pay attention", give me your data (what you buy, who and what you like and dislike, what you read or watch, your whole behavior ,etc.) and, in exchange, we will give you entertainment, advice, local news, mail, translation, etc. Nothing new here with Internet. All the "free" media (TV networks, Internet, radio, urban furniture) are based on the same barter principles. By the way, what is an audience measurement panel (TV, Internet, etc.) but a set of people giving voluntarily their personal data (opt-in) in exchange for a small "gift"?
This is just the beginning. People wake up and realize; they will learn and bargain: "you want my phone number, address ? OK. What do I get in exchange?  A reduction, a free sample?" Either in a store (think of loyalty cards) or on the net. You don't give your data, you sell it. Commercial media is nothing but a huge marketplace, a system of generalized personal data bartering.

So, how far will you go to sell your soul? For how much?
This could be dangerous: think of Faustus, master of bartering ("Explain the conditions clearly. Such a helper brings danger home*"). Everything has to be said and explained clearly. But who knows what tomorrow will bring? Dictatorship happens!

*Goethe, Faust : "Sprich die Bedingung deutlich aus. Ein solcher Diener bringt Gefahr ins Haus". (translation fm)

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