One dilemma that we are seeing come to the forefront of discussion whenever a huge tech company finds themselves in some hot water is the topic of selling consumer data.
It is often seen as immoral to directly sell consumer data in the United States as it violates privacy laws, however there are many workarounds that make people unaware of how much their information is actually being monetized. There are also no federal laws (in the United States) prohibiting the sale of consumer data, so unless there is a state law that changes that fact, companies are often free to do as they like.
It is also perfectly legal to allow companies to pay you for using your collected data to create targeted/personalized ads within your app. This method does not require companies to disclose the data that they collect on each customer, but allows said data to be used to create profit.
How Much Is It Worth?
It is estimated that Facebook brings in around $900 a year for every user on the platform by simply selling their data off to third parties. With around 2.9 billion users, Facebook alone is making more than any of my calculators can display every single year.
According to Statista, the global market for marketing related consumer data is well over 52 billion dollars, though I think this is a drastically low calculation given just how many companies are doing it.
With technology continuing to progress, I expect to see this number going up every year until there is a major change in the structure of federal law in the United States relating to this as well as some more decisiveness throughout the rest of the world.
Is It Moral?
I don't quite know. On one hand, you are being manipulated by targeted advertisements and your personal data is being exposed. On the other hand, you are getting a user experience that is uniquely tailored to you and thus should provide you with the options that you would enjoy the most.
I know that one moral issue in the situation is the concept of being exposed to a positive feedback loop where it looks like everyone else on the internet is constantly in agreement with your opinions because algorithms are constantly reinforcing that concept by showing you content it knows you will engage with. This makes it increasingly difficult for anything deemed to be "out-group information" to reach your timeline and thus can make you uneducated on a topic despite feeling like you have total knowledge on it.
Misinformation, recommendations and shadow-banning are not new concepts in the modern era, but they can prove to be very dangerous when looking at societal psychology as a whole. If we have billions of people who think that they are correct or well informed, it becomes very easy to manipulate those groups if you are in control of the algorithm and the data.
So is it moral? It could be, but there are huge risks involved when things get too out of hand.
The market is enormous and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. Do you care that companies are selling your data if it means you are seemingly getting a better experience online as a result of that? Let me know in the comments.
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My name is Rob and I am a prospective law student with interests in cryptocurrency and blockchain. I have enjoyed my time thus far engaging with Web 3.0 and am looking to continue learning more and sharing what I learn through my experience