Personal Data Economy

What is your personal data?

Everything on the Internet that is personal to you is your data: words, photos, music, locations, financial transactions - everything. You create this data when you fill out forms, create user accounts, or use social media or e-commerce websites.

How it's used today

Today the companies that give us websites, mobile applications, bank accounts, and insurance products store and protect our personal data for us. So does the government. We work together with these organisations because they need our data, and we need their services. But they have all the control.

‘Permission’ and end user license agreements

We give our permission for others to use our data when we accept the User Agreements on new websites and mobile apps. These agreements are too dense to understand, and so we mostly ignore them. The companies that wrote them get what they need, and we move on with our lives.

Owning data

The truth is it is incredibly difficult to actually own data once it is out in the world. It is too easy to copy and too difficult to draw lines around. Companies can own data because they own the databases that store it. People could do this too, if they had databases of their own.

Laws and regulation

Now, as the Internet has evolved, governments have begun to get ready to compel the companies that own this information to protect us. Industries like financial services and healthcare are regulated in how they protect our information from cyber attack, and they're not allowed to explicitly resell that information to other people. So things are changing.


In Europe, starting May 2018, a new law called the General Data Protection Act will come into effect. GDPR will require organisations to be transparent about their data use and disclose what information they hold about their customers. Not only that, they'll have to empower their customers to be able to access and claim back that information for themselves.

The wealth of our data today

Today, the economy that surrounds our personal data is vast. Across the Internet, we create petabytes of information every year, and its value to companies has eclipsed €272m annually. That’s despite the fact that individuals don’t own or control any of this information for themselves - the companies have it all.

The economy of our data tomorrow

As more and more Internet users take control of their own information with private data accounts, the personal data economy is going to explode. We won’t be afraid of sharing stuff anymore, because we’ll always have the power to take it back. And companies will be able to use more of our information (if we want them to) because they won’t be storing it themselves. We call this future the ‘Personal Data Economy’ and it’s coming soon.