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The Quantified Self

Own your own data

It’s not enough to occasionally Google oneself any longer. We now have to keep track of our own data — the underlying concept of the Quantified Self. Taken a step further, we need to control our own data. I heard this from some really smart guys during a recent panel discussion I attended. It made a lot of sense, though it seems a little late to claw back every piece of personal and otherwise incidental data we’ve all ever shared on the Internet.

Everything we do is already a data set — everything we buy, every phone call, every bill we pay, our music selections, activity on social media sites, email, our movements and what we do online. These data sets are the reason Google makes $4.8 million an hour, and Facebook pulls in a measly $484,432.23 an hour. I, on the other hand, am personally receiving $0 an hour. I kind of see the problem with this.

I’m relatively new to the idea of owning my data, though the idea isn’t new at all. Doc Searls, Rick Levine, et al, evidently laid out the idea in “The Cluetrain Manifesto” in 1999, when I was writing a weekly online essay in what had not yet been referred to as a “blog.”

“We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers,” they say. “We are human beings, and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”

Nice. I know I’m sick of having my humanity boiled down to being a “consumer.” I don’t imagine I’m alone, and I don’t imagine I’m the only one intrigued with the idea of personal data exchanges, where one can derive some value from information about what they eat, where they go, and what they buy. The future of advertising appears to be a two-way street. This will make the TiVo “revolution” look like a playground spat.


–Deborah D. McAdams, TV Technology