TED Conversations

Web Project Manager,

This conversation is closed.

Should we be concerned with companies owning our data?

As far as I know, google was one of the first to pioneer the business model of providing an online service free of charge in order for them to harvest user data. Now I'm sure some of you are thinking "if people are willing to give up their information, it serves them right". I believe the average person has no idea what happens behind the scenes with large online services. For that matter most politicians don't fully understand it. Now, I am not saying that google, apple, twitter, or facebook have a master plan to turn people into sheep in order control them for their own financial gain, but the truth is that the temptation is growing as we willingly give them larger windows into our lives.

This centralized data world we are moving into needs to have some serious accountability, and safegards put in place. People need to be educated on not only with where we are now, but also in how we are being led to share more and more of our lives online, and where this could lead us as humanity.

If anyone has any insights on what measures may be in place to protect people that I am not aware of, please let me know. The advantages of having centralized data is incredible, and this was a natural progression of technology which is here to stay, but I do have my concerns.


Banks sell consumers' shopping data to retailers:

Mobile Privacy bill:


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jun 8 2011: I was captivated by Damon Horowitz' topic and his twist on the subject. When I heard him insist on the music intro, and finale, I was sure that my concern about "should you be concerned about a company owning your data?". I happen to be a composer; am I worried that anyone can own my music but il will do them no more good than it does me: no money in it. Except maybe if that music happened to express for you a whole world of emotions, colours, a place in time, a time in space to enhance your creation or your restaurant's mood, or your TED presentation. But music is the wallpaper of our lives and it's free. What does it say about musicians? Moral music if we wrote it today, should be silent.
    • Jun 9 2011: I appreciate the comment Gerald. You bring up the point about the transition from analog media to digital, and how file-sharing has created the environment where a system like (apple's itunes) can exist. This is an interesting discussion in itself, however my intention of the question was more along the lines of personal data that is gathered from our daily lives, and how that may be used.

      To give you some context to what I am saying, lets look at what the big three (Apple, Google, Facebook) know about us (potentially, if we provide them with this info, and more and more people are doing this):

      Schedule - This is huge, if you know how a person plans their lives, you know what they value, their priorities etc.
      Documents - Many small companies are using google docs as a great way to share information, brainstorm, etc.)
      Contacts - A lot can be said about a person by who is on their contact list
      Communication - Another massive one. You know what they think, their opinions, beliefs, etc.)
      Location - More and more people are getting on board with "check-ins", GPS based services, etc., besides the obvious personal security risks, this also allows companies to know a great deal about you)
      Purchasing - By bringing your buying experience within their eco-system, google, Facebook, or itunes, can build up a large profile on you)

      Here is my point. Each one of these elements of our lives were handled by separate companies in the past. Now in our digital age, and with the push to move everything online, we are faced with these new and very real concerns of very view companies being able to know too much about us.

      I think these issues should spawn many conversations that we should not be taking lightly.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.