How data makes the world go round – and why we’re giving it away for free

How many times have you downloaded a new app, or accessed content online and, when faced with the terms and conditions associated with sharing your information, clicked accept faster than you can say “I can’t believe it’s free!”

I’m an avid MotoGP fan, often staying up to watch the latest race broadcast live from Europe. Last Sunday however, the race was delayed due to rain and after a busy weekend I opted for bed, thinking ‘I’ll watch the highlights tomorrow’. The next morning I headed over to and selected a video of interest before being confronted with the message below. A message often seen these days when visiting news, media and video streaming websites.



The thing is, it can be argued that whatever content or service you’re accessing isn’t really free – instead, what’s taking place is an exchange. Your data for their content. If you’re anything like me, you’ve clicked on ‘register’ plenty of times, and each time you do you get a little uneasy, thinking ‘what am I really signing up for here?’

The fact is that data has become the currency of the world – especially online. Your data is driving the advertising efforts of businesses big and small, helping them to reach you in increasingly efficient and personalised ways. Indeed, here at Kick&Co, we implement multi-faceted digital ad campaigns every day which rely on the personal data that’s harvested by big players like Facebook and Google.



But not all data is used for good.

Security technologist and cryptographer Bruce Schneier compares walking around with a smartphone to carrying a tracking device 24/7. “If we were told we had to inform the police when we made a new friend, we would never do that,” he says. “Instead, we inform Facebook.” He also says, “Or [if we were told to] mail the police a copy of every bit of our correspondence? Just in case? We don’t, but Google stores it for us.”

This stored data makes us susceptible to being hacked and compromised. And then, there are more high-profile examples such as Facebook’s now infamous data breach featuring Cambridge Analytica.


So who is giving up their data?

The first irony is that according to an article in Time Magazine a sizeable 74% of Americans say that they are concerned with giving away their data. When you drill down further though, you can see that the groups least concerned (and growing the fastest) are Millennials. As many as 71% of 18-24-year-olds are willing to give up location data in exchange for additional services for example.



Honesty is the best policy

I have a pretty snazzy Samsung Smart TV and we unwind with the TV on most nights after the little one goes to bed and these days 90% of our viewing is streamed through the likes of Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now or the FreeView channels. For a long time TenPlay was the only FreeView app which asked you to sign in to view content. Recently though, Ten has come out and said they don’t believe it has adversely affected their viewership and that basically it’s a trade-off most of us are willing to make.

MCN’s Nev Hasan said “people are quite used to it now, the whole marketplace has changed where people are expected to log in to receive – let’s be really honest, a free service – it’s sort of understood there’s a value exchange somewhere in that chain.”

Part of that justification for collecting data is the ability to create “addressability” in advertising. That is, ads which are customised depending on user preferences and where they are in the buying cycle.

Patrick Salyer, CEO of tech company Gigya, goes one further saying that being clear and upfront about data collection builds affinity:

“if you ask customers for permission to use their data and explain what you are going to collect and why, you will learn more and establish a foundation of loyalty and trust.”



More questions than answers

For me, this is a intriguing topic and one which is literally evolving before our eyes. There are no clear answers yet and unless you live off-grid, you’re probably a part of the story.

I’ll leave you with some parting questions to ponder:

  • Is giving your data a tradeoff you’re willing to make for access to free content and services?
  • In today’s world, is it a common assumption that ‘nothing comes for free’?
  • Is data collection more palatable if you’re served more relevant and meaningful advertising?
  • Do you feel ad platforms have you figured out with the content they serve you? Or do they just think they think they do? Take a look at Facebook’s Adverting Preferences here for you. Are they right?


Here’s to our brave new (digital) world. Enjoy the ride!