Transparency on Profitting from User Data

One other way to address the fundamental information asymmetry between big data platforms and users in pricing the value of user data[i] would be to adopt proposals that would require greater transparency in how companies monetize that data, such as regular reports on the Cost Per Click or other payments companies receive based on user activities.[ii]  Such information, along with greater data portability between services, might help further a market where users “vote with their feet” (or, more accurately, their data) and demand either a greater share of big data platform profits based on that data, switch to competing providers for a better deal, or withhold their data altogether after recognizing the pervasive use by third parties that they may not want tracking them.  Any of those outcomes would lessen the consumer harm from that big data platform control of user data.


[i] Alexander Furnas, “It's Not All About You: What Privacy Advocates Don't Get About Data Tracking on the Web,” The Atlantic, Mar 15, 2012, http://bit.ly/OX68ld (“The data collectors have more information than those they are they are collecting the data from; the persuaders more power than the persuaded.”)

[ii] Whittington & Hoofnagel at 1367