To the high­est bid­der

The Central Voice - - Editorial -

You’re worth money. Never for­get that.

And com­pa­nies are go­ing to sell you — or, at least, they’re go­ing to sell your data. Where you live. How and where you drive. What you spend money on. What your so­cial me­dia in­ter­ests are.

Just over a week ago in this space, we wrote about the way Sta­tis­tics Canada wanted to look at Cana­dian bank records.

But Sta­tis­tics Canada is only the tip of the ice­berg.

Tons of things that we use have soft­ware, and of­ten, we don’t own that soft­ware. We use it as li­censees, and buried deep in our li­cence agree­ments are the myr­iad of ways that soft­ware own­ers want to use and “mon­e­tize” (or sell) de­tails about what we use and how we spend.

Right now, Ford gets 35 per cent of its rev­enues not from build­ing and sell­ing cars and trucks, but from fi­nanc­ing them. And that fi­nanc­ing arm has its own pool of data.

And that data is big money. Think about this: ear­lier this month, Ford chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Jim Hack­ett told an in­ter­viewer that his com­pany sees the rafts of data it col­lects from ve­hi­cle and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion as a new way for the au­tomaker to make money. The Detroit Free Press re­ported on the is­sue, us­ing a tran­script from a Frea­k­nomics Ra­dio pod­cast.

“We have 100 mil­lion peo­ple in ve­hi­cles to­day that are sit­ting in Ford blue-oval ve­hi­cles. That’s the case for mon­e­tiz­ing op­por­tu­nity ver­sus an up­start who maybe has, I don’t know, what, they got 120, or 200,000 ve­hi­cles in place now. And so just com­pare the two stacks: which one would you like to have the data from?” Hack­ett said.

But soft­ware-based data is only part of the mar­ketable ma­te­rial. Right now, Ford gets 35 per cent of its rev­enues not from build­ing and sell­ing cars and trucks, but from fi­nanc­ing them. And that fi­nanc­ing arm has its own pool of data.

“We al­ready know and have data on our cus­tomers. By the way, we pro­tect this se­curely; they trust us. … We know what peo­ple make. How do we know that? It’s be­cause they bor­row money from us. And when you ask some­body what they make, we know where they work, you know. We know if they’re mar­ried. We know how long they’ve lived in their house be­cause these are all on the credit ap­pli­ca­tions. We’ve never ever been chal­lenged on how we use that. And that’s the lever­age we got here with the data.”

Think about that: data is the per­fect thing to in­crease cash flow. It doesn’t have the re­search and de­vel­op­ment ex­penses in­volved with, say, build­ing the per­fect elec­tric car.

To be clear: this is the Amer­i­can par­ent com­pany. Dif­fer­ent na­tions have dif­fer­ent rules about how data can be col­lected and used.

But those rules can change if you don’t take the time to pay at­ten­tion to your own in­ter­ests, and to what your gov­ern­ment in­tends to do with your dig­i­tal rights.

Get en­light­ened about data, or be­come a com­mod­ity.

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