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Know the worth of your personal data when using websites such as Facebook and Google

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James Moore, director at Bishop's Stortford firm Genmar IT, writes for the Indie...

In a world run by giant tech companies vying for your personal data, it raises the question – why are we all giving it away for free?

A common misconception is that the use of websites such as Facebook or Google is free, but, really, we are all paying with a different currency – our data.

Facebook earns 98% of its revenue through advertising, auctioning off space for ads within its users' feeds and stories. In 2020, Facebook earned $84 billion in total advertising revenue, which works out to roughly $32 per person over the year.

In the same year, Google generated $104 billion through its search ad revenue alone, which equates to $24 per person in the year.

So how much is your personal data worth? Not all personal data is born equal and the price of your data depends a lot on which demographic you belong to.

Rather than being free, you are paying with your personal data when using websites such as Facebook and Google
Rather than being free, you are paying with your personal data when using websites such as Facebook and Google

For example, the price of someone's data aged between 18 and 24 is more than someone between 25 and 34, largely because the older you are the more your money is likely to be tied up in bills and other financial commitments.

The price varies again depending on your average household income, and even differs depending on your ethnicity and religion.

On average, the price a business will pay for one person's personal data is around 15p, but can be as high as 50p depending on which demographic you belong to.

This may not sound like a lot, but, considering how many times your data is likely to be resold, the actual amount earned by data brokers would be considerably higher. A data broker is an individual or company that specialises in collecting personal data or data about companies and selling or licencing such information to third parties.

But the tide is changing. A recent Dragons' Den entrepreneur pitched the idea of a web browser that puts its users back in control of their data by allowing consumers to profit from online adverts by choosing what of their data is sold on and being rewarded for it. The company, Gener8, received its funding and is now live.

More and more regulations are being put in place to limit the amount of personal data that is stored and sold online, most notably the GDPR changes implemented in 2018.

Most major internet browsers are slowly blocking the use of third-party cookies that are used to track a user across multiple sites for behavioural targeting. Google's Chrome browser is set to ditch third-party cookies in 2023.

There are some simple ways you can help to control your privacy online, such as making sure your personal data is not publicly accessible. If your data is available for all to see, then it's fair game for anyone to use, so change your social media privacy settings to only allow your friends to see your posts/data.

Similarly, don't share your email address or contact information online where it is available to everyone, such as forums or comment sections.

It is also important to have good cyber security habits as it's not only legitimate businesses that are after your personal data. Hackers can sell your personal data on the black market for a profit.

For more useful information and tips on keeping your data secure, visit our website at genmar.co.uk.

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