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Should you get paid when someone cross-references your data?

Sensor devices are not only proliferating in numbers but getting smarter at the data they suck in. A device the size of a big thumb-nail can now track things such as eye movement, sound, biometrics, temperature, mobile signature and light.

Projects are already underway to roll out such devices in buildings, stores and even household devices – and there are great opportunities but they will cast a brighter light than ever on a problem we have been facing for decades:

Who will access that data? What will they do with it? What control do I have?

The problem will not come in someone using one data set – but rather, such clusters of data collection will make it far easier to access cross-referenced data than ever before. You will not only be able to build a profile of someone based on the type of shoe they wear but their height, eye colour, mobile phone, maybe their name – all in real time.

Data is everywhere. Information is when data is organised. Knowledge is when information becomes integrated and useful – and links the silos.

In other words, sensors, devices and new networks will surely create more data – but they will enable linking and cross-referencing on a scale we have never witnessed – and this is something we need to be cautious over.

Take shop sensors. Did you know there are sensors that count footfall. And now some sensors are able to tell what shoe size you are – and even what type of shoe you’re wearing. Combine this with eye movement and you can start to build up the likelihood of someone buying something.

Yet it would be a shame for people to give up so much valuable data without getting something back for it. After all, if your data is helping someone to profit, you’re part of the research that leads them to making money.

So perhaps we need some new systems in place to help us know when someone has used our data – “anonymously” or not – and b: having the option to receive something back for our trouble. Just so we can be completely transparent…



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