Businessweek Archives

Freeing our data


Dave Winer calls for awards for companies that let us export the data we accumulate on their sites. In other words, if we rate a lot of movies on Netflix, why can’t we move that profile, with all of the nuances it carries about our interests and tastes, to a dating site? Our movie profile might line us up with just the right person.

The point here, which I deal with in my upcoming book, is that while many people rightly worry about data privacy, far-sighted companies are going to enhance their business by giving us power over it, giving us tools to help us define ourselves with our data. We should be able not only to protect it, but also to use this information about ourselves to help us get what we want in life.

The way it stands now, as Dave writes, companies like Yahoo and Netflix keep our data corralled. It represents a relationship that they have with us, a strategic asset, and they don’t want to share it with others. But with time, I think, companies will come to realize that if they provide us with the right tools to amass data about ourselves, to create our personalized packages, we will flock to them. This service will likely turn into a new line of business, because in the age we’re now entering, we increasingly will be asked to define ourselves, algorithmically, for machines.


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