Legislators at both the federal and state level have passed or are considering legislation to regulate data collection. Others want to ban TikTok out of fear that the company is collecting data on Americans. A 2022 study found that 86% of Americans fear that companies are collecting too much data. Another study found that 63% of Americans find data collection by companies to be “creepy.”
The studies explain people fear loss of privacy and worry about security, yet little information about how the public believes their privacy or security will actually be breached. Most articles simply use hyperbole about data exploitation to encourage fear. Articles — like this one from the UK — claim that “the ownership and use of the massive amount of personal data that an average person produces is becoming a multi-billion-pound industry.” Such claims implies that any one person’s data is quite valuable.
And yet, they fail to explain how your data is of value to any business. Therein lies the answer to all concerns.
For the most part, your data is really only of value to you. This article explains the various ways data is collected. More importantly, it explains why data is collected. Reason number one: Data enables companies to “improve customer experience.” Companies want to make it very easy to find the products or information you are seeking. The person benefiting from your data collection is you. Interestingly, even the article explaining about the dangers of data collection starts by warning they collect your data to ensure a better user experience. (RELATED: ALEXANDER FLEISS: TikTok — Harmless Distraction, Or National Security Risk?)
The selling of data is another concern. Many believe that companies benefit from the sale of your data. However, the profitability of selling data only exists if the data-buying company sells you a product or service you want. After all, a company does not simply benefit from having your data. There is no inherent value in your data to any company. However, you can benefit from being offered products you need but never knew existed.
A friend’s son contracted a debilitating disease. It was horrific. However, one aspect of the tragedy was painless: finding much-needed products and services. She received catalogs listing all types of products for the handicapped. Even the government sent her information about programs available to the disabled. She received this information without doing any research. The information was freely sent her way due to the selling or sharing of her data.
Still, “two-thirds (64%) of respondents said that the potential risks they face by providing too much personal data outweigh the benefits.” Which brings us back to what are the real risks. A real risk is data being stolen. There is harm if your information is used in credit card fraud or other illegal activity. However, using your data to make fraudulent purchases is already illegal. Most interesting, it is actually the collection of data that prevents a lot of fraud. As this website notes: “This anti-fraud detection system uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze hundreds of pieces of data for risk whenever a transaction takes place.” Plus, it is the credit card company – not you – that is responsible for fraudulent charges.
Your data is truly valuable. But only if you let it be collected and used to enable you to easily find the products, services, and information you need. If you want to find out how valuable it is to you, try doing a search incognito. You may find yourself wishing your data was being used.
Frayda Levin worked on Domestic Affairs in the Reagan Administration. She ran a small business for 20 years. Ms. Levin has been active in promoting economic liberty for over 40 years.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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