Why you are not paying with your data

Conferences are full of buzz words and gimmicks. In 2019, two of them are trending: “data is the new oil”, and… “you are paying with your data”. The first has been debunked by my friend Alec Stapp, see here. Let me now discuss the second one by asking you a few questions.

Would you say that…

  • you are paying with your serve while playing tennis?
  • you are paying with your inertia while being on a plane?
  • you are paying with your silence while watching a film at a cinema?
  • you are paying by using a knife while eating a delicious cacio e pepe?
  • you are paying by putting your hands on the steering wheel while riding a car?

No, you wouldn’t! You wouldn’t because, in these examples, you wouldn’t be serving without playing tennis, you wouldn’t be using a knife without eating a cacio e pepe, you wouldn’t stay silent in a dark room for 90 minutes without being in a cinema… all this allowing the activities listed above.

Similarly, you are not paying with your data when you are using online services. Indeed, the vast majority of your data wouldn’t exist if it were not for the use of these services. And guess what: big platforms are not monetizing your place of birth, they are precisely monetizing the use of their services. So… “paying with your data” is nonsensical. Yes, data has (some) value, yes, data matters, yes (again) companies want more, yes (again & again), platforms monetize data while trattoria can’t monetize the use of a knife, but it still does not make you pay with your data as (most) of it does not pre-exist the use of the service. You can’t “pay” with something that doesn’t exist when you are not consuming the product and service. Let’s stop using that gimmick.

Thibault Schrepel

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