What is Google worth to us?
In response to our discussion on big data, siren servers and data as a product, I wanted to flip the discussion on whether or not Google should be using our data by seeing how much Google is worth to us. It would be a similar setup to PrivacyFix program that we did in class, but you would have to put in the information that you gather from Google and it would spit out the minimum cost to find the same information otherwise. This would involve a lot of algorithms and programming skills that I do not have, so for my project I was thinking of 1) finding a piece of information completely independent of Google and seeing how long it takes me/what it costs me to do so; 2) extrapolating on that to come up with a few cases, to kind of figure out the average cost of googling something or expand on how it changes for different situations; 3) using that to structure an ethical argument as to why it’s ok for Google and Facebook and all of these other programs to sell our data for profit. This will expand on our readings about Big Data, including “Big Data” and “Who Owns the Future,” and sort of tease out and augment their argument.
I am worth $36 and change to Google. In order to be worth something, that means Google sells me or something I do to others. I am still here, in full ownership of myself—so Google sells something I do, and specifically, things that I do on Google and its partner websites. All of my searches, all of the websites I visit, everything I do through Google is data which the company can use and sell to other businesses for profit; therein lies my monetary value. But what does that mean, “sell my data?” Does Google have my entire history stored somewhere which it can then sell for a nickel a pop? Or does Google sell my privacy rights to other companies, who can then track what I do? I’m not confused about the ability to sell data. I assume it can’t be too hard to track what type of music I listen to, what kind of foods I like, what websites I visit, whatever, based on my internet searches. After all, the first place I go with any question is Google. I’m just wondering about how Google and other companies can put a value on my data, and what that means for data itself. The whole concept of buying and selling revolves around the notion of giving money in exchange for goods and services. Data is definitely not a service. I guess it is something that is produced and consumed, so therefore it could be classified as a good. I suppose that would be its medium as well—a consumer good. In terms of writing, reading and thinking I’m not so sure. I feel like if it is to have a role in these three areas, it would be in thinking, and not human analysis but rather data processing—kind of the way a computer program makes a computer “think” about certain data sets. In that sense data would be more like facts or input values, which can then be manipulated and modified to extract information. It really is fascinating that this is so relevant a topic that there are discussions about it, and enough of a discussion that me, with my $36 net worth, can contribute to them.