Your Data is Worth Thousands
Per year. Yes, it's really worth that much. You’ve all heard the saying data is the new oil. Honestly, what a ridiculous statement, but the sentiment rings true. Data, specifically your data, is worth a whole lot of money.
Not unlike oil, with the right refinement, you can extract immense value. There are the obvious examples like creating personalized experiences, target marketing, or simply securing your home from intruders. Then there's a whole slew of applications you might not directly see, like failure analysis on jet turbine parts or improving natural language processing algorithms. So Siri finally gets your text right on the first try. You’ve even got ethically questionable, more nuanced applications like using everyone's health records to detect trends or cures for cancer. The applications are literally endless, the point being, you can do some really magical stuff IF you have the right data.
If all of these applications sound hard, well, that's because they are. Its no small task to take anything raw and extract intelligence, insight, action from it. This is compounded exponentially by the fact that getting access to data is a crapshoot. It may genuinely be the most difficult part. The internet was built to share data. It facilitates the movement of data from one location to another. That's it. It doesn’t address how data should be stored, secured, used, access granted, or any number of other key uses. We’ve all used the expression — once it's on the internet, it's forever.
Due to this lack of a good data infrastructure, most applications rely only on data they directly collect. The next paragraph is a bit of a rant; feel free to skip to the part where I talk about actual dollars.
This is one of the dumber things we’ve ever perpetuated in the tech community; take your email address, for example. For every app you’ve typed it into, its saved in their database(s), all their backups, and all the backups for the underlying storage infrastructure, maybe even replicated to various global locations for quick use aboard, and all those backups. Plus, you know, the NSA is gonna also copy it and back that shit up no less than 10 times. Now, don’t hold me to this, but someone very much in the know once told me that for each piece of data you share, its stored an average of 30 times. THAT'S FOR ONE APP. I recently counted, I have 80 apps on my phone, so quick math says my email address is currently stored in about 2400 locations. Why the fuck we doing this, its the same piece of data. Why are we not storing it once, plus a couple of backups, and then making it available to all the apps that need it? The amount of electricity needed, the metal mined, the physical space, the environment destroyed, just to save the same thing over and over and over again. It's so bad, Microsoft is trying to build data centers at the bottom of the fucking ocean.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying the data market is in its infancy and already being compared to oil and gold. Below are the 3 biggest segments where your data is actively sold or traded today.
Behavior Data (est. $20B in 2020). You’ll often hear this referred to as audience data or attributes. This is fancy marketer speak for combining a bunch of stuff like demographics, location, things you like, places you frequent, friends you have, and everything else. It’s basically a digital profile of you. Acxiom, one of the largest in the space, boasts over 1500 data points per American.
Financial Data (est. $32B in 2020). We all know what this is; you sign up for a rewards program at your grocery store, it's so they can track all of your purchases. Credit score? Yup, that’s this. For a long time, I just assumed FICO was just the name of the score that everyone agreed upon, maybe even a legal thing. Nope, it's a company that gets all of your transactions from your banks, credit cards, insurance, and builds fancy models to rank your creditworthiness, which it then sells back to the places it got the data from.
Digital Advertising (est. $330B in 2020). This entire market is based on using your data to sell you more stuff. Other than some content creation, which you could easily argue is still just driven by your data. The whole game is put a relevant ad in front of your eyes at the right time, preferably in a way where you aren’t totally sure if its an ad or not. Well, all of that is just data. Data on what you're actively looking at right now, what you’ve clicked on in the past, or when you are more likely to be persuaded by a promotion. Data on what ads have worked for you, or your friends, or combined with behavior data or financial data to narrow in the content further. It's so creepy that we think our phones are listening to us (spoiler, they are not, usually). If you want to get spooked, check out remarketing tags, but basically, it's a little trail that follows you throughout the internet so companies can advertise to you based on what you’re looking at. It’s how if you google new mattress, then open up Facebook; suddenly, you start getting dozens of ads for mattresses. It’s by far and away the most mature segment. Digital marketing spends have even surpassed traditional marketing.
Martech or Adtech (Marketing Tech or Advertising Tech) dominates the data market today, but that's because most companies are still stuck with siloed data. The marketing world is mainly driven by agencies that represent dozens or hundreds of companies (or in the case of FB, millions of companies). This makes it worthwhile for agencies to go out and buy data, scrape data, “steal” data because they can then use it for a wide portfolio of companies.
Even with data access being a mess, the value is there. We’re seeing new multi-billion dollar markets popping up nonstop; try IoT data, health data, or AI training data, for example. The market is in its infancy, which is pretty crazy to think given its already over $300B. The cool thing about data, unlike oil or gold. You can make more. In fact, your new data, “just in time data” or “real-time data” is often worth so much more than your old data. Your email address, worth pennies, but the fact that you just searched mattresses on google… $$$.
You’re at the bottom and like, okay, cool lotta words about the data market, but WTF is MY DATA worth? I’ll give you two answers, using what was actually spent in the US in 2020, roughly $1,000 per person per year (~$300B / 300M). The problem with that number is that's what was spent, not what its worth. Given we’re all snowflakes and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, each one of us has different data worth different amounts to different people. I would expect our data to be pushing $10,000 per person per year by 2030. With experts projecting a $10T+ market, that's 30x today. Just imagine $30k * 72 yrs. $2.2 Million.
TLDR: A fuck ton.