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Could a data market fix the internet?
Remember how the internet didn’t suck, how it used to be weird, odd, chaotic, and great? We fought for fun on Twitter; Facebook had pokes (which somehow weren’t creepy?) AIM, ebaumsworld, Kimbo Slice, end of ze world, grape lady, Vine ( nice twitter, you had TikTok 10 yrs before TikTok and fucked it up).
Fast-forward, and now…
We’ve got companies spying on users, governments spying on users, hate, and anger everywhere. (At least we’ve got r/happycowgifs)
Why? Money, power, control.
But how’d they do it?
It mostly wasn’t intentional at first. People saw hyper-connectivity as a revolutionary opportunity, so they built, and they built. Amazing products, fantastic services. But the funny thing about growth is it never stops; tomorrow, you gotta make more money than today.
Data became the fuel; you could manipulate it to figure out who to show which video or ad, keeping them in your app. Exactly when a notification should buzz so, someone jumps back in. When you control which apps people use, what results appear when they search, who they can talk to, you can suck em in and nudge them in any direction you chose.
It’s a lot of power. No surprise, governments jumped in. They wanted that power too — a constant fight for control of that once weird internet and subsequently us.
Is that a little dramatic? Maybe. Right now, the internet feels like the Vegas Strip. It’s got all the fun, the good, and the bad, but none of the soul.
In the quest for ultimate dollars, ultimate power, control of the internet, it’s resulted in a massive consolidation of power. We tend to call them BigTech, but throw the US and Chinese governments in with them.
They have immense control over our lives, and if we’re not careful, it’s only going to get worse, way worse. If we think we have a problem now… Personalized medicine, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and digital consciousness revolutions are upon us. They run on your data, so so so much of it.
It’s okay to feel scared, hopeless, nihilistic. But, data is way more amazing than we give it credit. I mean, it’s kinda hard to believe but getting lost used to be an actual real problem. When googling “what did people do before GPS,” the answer: “Explorers navigated by pure luck and chance.” Most of us would die.
We went from luck to using the stars, maps, GPS, and now tiny computers in our pockets. All of that made possible by sharing data.
Imagine what else we could create or solve if we could aggregate just the right kind of data from all the necessary people. Google proved it could build software to detect cancer better than doctors, all from a bunch of moderately shitty data.
The problem isn’t with data itself or even in sharing it. It’s in the use of data to control, manipulate, exploit. Where that gets messy, who decides? Companies? No, thank you. Governments? Pass.
Users. We, as users, should decide how our data is used, shared. That means the ability to make informed decisions about our data. I mean, actual decisions, pages on pages of terms of service agreements, or 30 toggle switches with no sensible explanations do not count (I see you LinkedIn).
I think we’re all probably in agreement, data privacy and control are big, big problems, but I’m not going to go thru the 80 apps on my phone changing mostly pointless settings.
Worse yet, say someone spends millions to create some really cool new software to change data ownership. Why would any company willingly give up control? They already hide behind antiquated laws performing borderline creepy data collection. Tech’s always going to move faster than law. Ban cookies and boom more tracking pixels, pointless, right?
Bans never work, especially not when something is so valuable (drug war anyone?). What does work is transparent, fair, open markets.
We can do it with data IF enough people participate. Collecting data is hard, expensive, and risky. Companies would gladly buy data directly from users as needed. Hell, 73% of data collected goes unused.
The great thing about a market is it allows buyers and sellers to agree on terms and price. As a user, you can decide who can and cannot buy your data and even for what use. As a buyer, you pay only for what you need. Transparency and control returned to users. Businesses get the insights they need at a fraction of the cost.
In a crazy twist, selling your data could also be the way to ensure user privacy. How’s that even possible? For you technical folks, it’s called synthetic data, basically just fancy anonymous data. If you think about it, it makes sense too. For example, a company wants to understand why groups of people are or aren’t buying their product. They’re not thinking, what’s Mike’s preference? Rather, what are people like Mike buying? The buyer never needs your identity to answer that question.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but a market where users control selling their data directly to companies can return the balance of power and provide much-needed privacy. That is if we all sign up. mytiki.com