“If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.” This is a well-known statement about Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and its value in the Internet economy. I repeat it not to start another lament about the advertising industry’s supposed disregard for user privacy.
Consumers are usually getting a service from a social media or Web provider in return for our private data. That has been key to the current Internet boom. PII is the most valuable digital currency today. The valuation of Facebook alone stands at US$200 billion built mostly on PII. In contrast, the total number of Bitcoins in circulation is worth only about US$4 billion.
My argument, however, is that it’s not a fair trade for consumers today. As a result, there are moves afoot by multiple parties to empower consumer privacy and give us more finer-tuned control over our own PII. As PII goes from an unregulated to regulated currency, this meteoric boom on the Web could be followed by a bust. Having lived through two financial meltdowns in my working career – the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, and the collapse of the lending markets in 2008 – it feels like the stage is being set for another bubble and bust.
I explain more about why I think this will happen – and how – in my LinkedIn blog . Please click here to read this more in-depth.