Throughout history, we've been generous in sharing one of the most valuable things we have... our data 😮 but now that's over. Now we will get back the ownership of our data... or?
Companies like Alphabet ( Google ), Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Amazon have gone from garage or dorm room companies to become some of the most powerful companies in the world the so called FAANG companies. But of course it is not only these companies that collect data about their users.
Is data really the new gold? 🏆
For years, we've been talking about data as the new gold. But now the gold mines are running out and the big companies have accumulated so much data that it can no longer be used as a competitive advantage between the big companies.
When I got my first phone, one of those foldable models, you could collect a maximum of 100 phone numbers, at that time all phone numbers were stored on the SIM card and not on the phone's memory. I quickly understood the value of saving phone numbers and reusing them when I needed to get in touch with that person again for help or to follow up on a deal.
Today, it is not only phone numbers that are stored about us, but everything possible, an article in Foxnews states that FB has as many as 29,000 data points about us, its users. There are also reports that there are up to 52,000 data points on FB alone.
We have always known that the more information we have, the more we know and based on this information we can make better decisions. It started with drawing rune stones on the stone walls of the caves, until we started taking notes on paper. Now we have digital notebooks and post daily what we do, where we do it and why we do what we do.
YES data is definitely a gold that is not only valuable as a gemstone but as a modern digital trading currency.
Google and Facebook account for all data in compliance with GDPR
When the GDPR was introduced, there was a requirement that ALL users should have full access to the total data about them. This created total chaos for companies who feared that hefty lawsuits could be waiting. Companies had no other solution but to be transparent with their data.
Now they let their users both view, download and delete their data on their platforms - This is great!
Here's all the data Facebook & Google have about you
Relevant advertising please - via optimised data!
I myself started my FB account back in 2007 and one thing I am sure of is that my interests, music tastes, lifestyle and several other things are not at all like they were when I started my account so maybe some of the 29,000 or 52,000 data points, whatever the number, change regularly and thus it does not hurt to clean your data sometimes especially if you know that you have made major changes in your life yourself.
The truth is that the more up-to-date our data is, the better we can access the messages, experiences, offers, relationships, etc. that we value and need.
When you know how to use your data to create better conditions, it becomes incredibly effective. Like when my wife was buying a new electric bike. Then she does a process that looks like this, she googles "electric bike lady". She goes to the pages of the big players and browses through the women's bikes. Then she finishes by searching the FB marketplace for "women's e-bike".
The next day she can go through her usual feed on the sofa in the evening and know that she will get an advert for an e-bike, if there is anyone out there who is currently promoting a suitable e-bike for her to buy - Smart & convenient!
Don't work against your data, make it work for you and it will become your own gold!
Can we be responsible for our own data then?
When Apple released its latest update, iOS 14.5, it introduced a feature they call App Transparancy. This means that ALL apps on the App Store now have to let users decide whether or not they want the app to collect data about itself, this is done through a pop-up box where the user can approve or deny tracking.
In practice, this means that if you deny the Facebook app to track your behaviour in the app, for example, FB will not be able to retrieve any information from your device and store it on its own servers - but what, I won't get any advertising then?
The simple answer here is NO, it will just mean that the ads you see are not at all tailored to you and what you have previously shown interest in - But it's a good thing FB can't track me, right?
The million dollar question: what do you have to hide?
But now we know that it's not about hiding anything, but more that you and I can feel insecure knowing that information about us including names, phone numbers, email addresses, card details, account details and passwords is circulating out there in the cloud and if we're unlucky can be intercepted by hackers or caught in a data breach or leakage.
A herd behaviour that leads the way!
This is something that Facebook and Google in particular are working on solving right now. They call this FloC (The Federated Learning of Cohorts). In practice, this means that through all the data they have collected so far, they can see certain types of herd-like behaviours. They say they'll be able to do this directly on users' devices and then only send a "Flock ID" to advertisers that tells them which flock you belong to.
I will now try to simulate how this can work in practice.
I use my device during the day and visit my news apps in the morning where I read the latest news on technology, economics, and some society related topics. I finish by checking the weather.
During the day, I surf around my social media channels and engage with content from friends, colleagues and advertisers.
I end my day by playing some games, reading some more news, watching a few episodes of Mythic Quest and then turn on my sleep app that measures my sleep every night.
All this data is now collected on my device and checks if I am still part of the same flock or if my behaviour has changed.
Now, when I open my Instagram app to check my digital feed, Instagram can send me a request to read my FloC ID and can then personalize feeds and web pages that are tailored entirely to my own behavior and interests without sharing my personal data directly with external partners.
I really hope you have gained value from reading this post about how I see the future of tracking users digitally and how the gold is now owned by us. As well as how our basic herd behaviour is now paving the way for a continued open and free internet where advertisers can continue to find relevant customers and new relationships can be built between individuals.