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The Wild Wild West

The Wild WestSomething's happening online. Does it seem like everything is safe and then you find it isn't? When you consider the Internet provides so much for free, but then you see companies that are FREE going IPO with a value of billions. Where do they make their money? Every time you sign up for free analytics, an online game in your social network, or a free online community, you agree to the Terms of Use. Have you ever read any of them before you clicked agree? Most companies do a good job posting privacy-aware policies that make it clear to users how they use their data.  What users might be doing is sacrificing ownership of their analytics data which might surprise you what that means. Definition from Wikipedia: monetization involves maximizing the revenue potential from available data by institutionalizing the capture, storage, analysis, effective dissemination, and application of that data. Said differently, it is the process by which corporations, large and small, leverage data to increase profit and efficiency, improve customer experience and build customer loyalty. The practice, although common since 2000, is now getting increasing focus as regulatory and economic pressures increase on businesses. Financial services companies are a relatively good example of an industry focused on replacing lost revenue by leveraging data. Credit card issuers and retail banks are using customer transaction data to improve targeting of cross-sell offers. Partners are increasingly promoting merchant based reward programs which leverage a bank’s data and provide discounts to customers at the same time. What does that mean for you? All you want to do is go online to learn, find information, resources or ideas, connect with others, or just to lurk and see what others are doing. There may be other reasons but it's not to give away your data. That's what you think. This is a new time where data and the ownership of data makes companies grow and get rich. The new revenue model is give it away, make it free, and then collect 150,000 points of data for each user. That's right - that's what I said. A minimum of 150,000 points of data for you. This means that your data includes:
  • contact information like your address, phone number, email address for EVERY place you ever lived.
  • credit and banking information for every credit or debit card you signed up for, loan for anything you ever signed, mortgage or rent agreements, and bank or credit union accounts.
  • record of every purchase where you used anything but cash.
  • any agreement you signed and filed: marriage, divorce, business partnerships, wills or living trust, utility bills, etc.
  • channels you watch on TV and listen to on the radio or on mobile device.
  • every time you make a phone call, location of a picture you take, or text.
  • analytics for a website for the number of hits and page views.
  • social media and all of your connections and their data points.
  • apps and activities on your mobile devices.
  • online games and how you are performing.
  • online courses and what you are learning.
  • and so many more data points from thousands of places.
  So why would any company want to know this about you? This is how they target their marketing and plan for research and development. Big budget stuff! You see if a company just relied on the activity of their clients, they wouldn't know how to project future development. Now with all the social media and mobile devices, companies can now track all of the data points. They can use the analytics of your page views and visitors on top of your own activity. Companies now need lots of data to make decisions and they need millions of users. The only way they can get that is to offer programs for free or at very low cost. You think it's a great bargain, but they are using your information to get rich. So what if you wanted to bow out of the data mining business and take all of your data points with you. It's too late. You were born and that is now recorded. You signed up for a phone some time ago. That was recorded. You made calls and each of those were recorded. I know many people who will not use the Internet or a credit card because they are concerned about someone taking their information. Sorry. It's gone already. You can take control of some of your information by doing some Internet forensics on yourself. Find out what is attached to your name by Googling your name, address, etc. But here's another thing - every time you search on Google, that's another data point connected to you. Oh my!!! I wrote this just so you are aware of what Free really means so you can make good choices when connecting online or by your mobile device for the right reasons.
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