Attendees sit and browse their smartphones at the Huawei Technologies Co. pavilion during day two of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. (Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg)

If Privacy Is Dead, Some Argue People Should Sell Their Own Data

(Bloomberg) -- If privacy is truly a thing of the past, then people should at least profit off their own personal information.

That’s the view of data rights advocate Brittany Kaiser, who came forth this year to testify about how former employer Cambridge Analytica improperly hoovered up data on millions of Facebook users. It’s a perspective shared by an increasing number of online users around the world, who’re waking up to the fact that Facebook Inc. and Google’s online empires are built on data they signed away without compensation.

The question is how. Facebook for example could distribute digital tokens to its 2.2 billion users in return for the intimate information used by advertisers on the social network every day, Kaiser suggests.

“Privacy doesn’t exist in a post-Facebook crisis era,” Kaiser said at the Bloomberg Sooner Than You Think summit in Singapore. “The digital assets that you produce every day are your own human value. You should be able to own them and you should be able to share in the monetization of that.”

From a personal perspective, real ownership and control of data means having all your information -- from political leanings and product preferences to medical records -- in one place, so people can decide who gets to access it and on what terms. That could mean anything from selling it to granting limited use in exchange for a free service (such as Facebook) -- or keeping it completely private.

Privacy just isn’t possible in the post-Facebook crisis era, Kaiser said. Yet consumers should avoid “fear-mongering” or clinging to the idea that no data is safe. As an example, she brought up the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May and focuses on protecting personal data. Companies now face stricter rules on consent and beefed-up fines for any data breaches. That framework is helping push the U.S. towards stricter legislation, she said.

Ultimately, it’s about asserting control over your own prized possessions.

“Just like with Airbnb -- if somebody is going to come and use your physical assets, you would expect to agree a price and what they’re going to do with it before you hand over the keys to your house,” Kaiser said. “Why isn’t it the same with your data?”

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