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An exploration of the personal data economy

Digital Exhaust, Privacy, and the Value of Personal Data

Photo by Antonio Zugaldia

We all generate digital exhaust as we navigate our way through the world. It starts as soon as you wake up – if you are part of the 80 percent of smartphone users who check their email within 15 minutes of waking up – and continues as you drive to work using Waze or Google maps to avoid traffic. It continues throughout your day as you use tools on your PC and apps on your smartphone. But it is moving beyond just the computer in your pocket emitting digital exhaust. At frog, we are designing systems that make the very environment we live in “think” and “sense,” from cars to store, transit systems, homes, parks, and entire cities. We are at a point where we can draw a pretty accurate picture of where you went and what you did based on the tracks you leave across sensing and compute systems. 

Addicted to Data

 How an Obsession With Measuring Can Hurt Businesses


Here's one thing I love about plumbers: whenever I hire one, they stick to the plumbing. Not once has a plumber fixed my kitchen sink, only to follow up with a credit card offer. No teaser rates, no plumber points, no "convenience checks." Not even a customer satisfaction survey. They simply do their job and collect their fee. It makes me wish dealing with larger companies were that simple.

Mining for Meaning at NEXT 11

Last week, frog Executive Creative Director Fabio Sergio spoke at NEXT conference, one of the most relevant digital conferences in Europe. The conference gathered more than 1600 delegates from 16 countries on the subject of DATA LOVE. Mining for meaning is Fabio's meme to increase the quality of life in a changing world of personal data.

The Altruism Instinct

I recently signed up for 23andme, a genetic testing and DNA ancestry service.  Once I set up my account, an intriguing request popped up: Would I like to contribute my genetic information and supplemental survey data to a study called 23andwe? The information would be used for genetics studies, presumably benefitting human health and wellness in general. 

In our research on the value of personal data, we found that the average price US consumers would pay to keep their health related information private was $38 per year.  However, placing a monetary value on the exchange of personal information may be too limiting -- there may be other reasons for giving up personal information that go beyond money. 

Why Does Data Tracking Bother Us?

Whenever the topic of personal data tracking comes up, there seem to be two distinct sides in the debate: the "outraged" camp and the "who cares?" camp. A few months ago, Michael Arrington made a pretty convincing case for the "who cares?" side:

If you do stuff online, people are tracking it and putting it into a database and trying to sell you stuff based on that. There’s not much you can do about it except not be online. And it’s not all that bad, really, to get ads for diapers when you’re having a baby, or ads for cars when you are looking to buy a car. Life will go on.

Who We Trust: Mobile World Congress Edition

The Mobile World Congress is convening in Barcelona this week and the issue of personal data will be a hot topic.  In keeping with the international nature of the event, we expanded Tim’s analysis of the US Industry Trust Index to two other geographies – China and India.  

Spending, Trading, or Something Else?

In discussions of privacy and personal data, it’s becoming more common to say that people “trade” or “spend” information about themselves in exchange for online services. This metaphor implies that people are actually aware that an exchange is taking place. But are people making a conscious choice to share their information? Are they aware of how easily and often information about them is made available to marketers?

Who Do We Trust With Our Personal Data?

Once we had an idea of what our data was worth, the next question was who we trust with this data. At frog, this is not an academic question.  We are working with companies from many different industries who want to offer consumers some sort of service in exchange for information.   This is new territory for both consumers and companies.  Take the example of Home Automation and Home Energy Management Systems.  Here are systems which generate data on whether you play Xbox or watch TV; whether dinner is in the microwave or on the stove; and what time you typically come home (and when you don’t). In short, lots of personal data is produced by smart homes, HEM systems and sensor networks, and when this is combined with other sources such as web browsing history, purchase records, and social-graphs, the resulting consumer insight is deeper than anything we have seen before.  Incidentally, I will be presenting a webinar on this topic on Feb 3rd called “Smart Home Opportunity: Balancing Customer Data and Privacy.”

When Sharing Personal Data, Context is King

Facebook made privacy headlines yet again last week when they made users’ contact information (phone number and address) available to developers. What can our study tell us about users’ reactions to such a change in policy?

What's Your Personal Data Worth?

If someone wanted to bid on your personal data, how much would you auction it off for? At frog, we are seeing lots of business models that depend on analyzing data trails (also known as “digital exhaust”) left by all of us as we navigate our way through the connected world. What we want to know is, how much is each piece of information actually worth.