NYT: Companies should give usage data to customers


There’s data I create explicitly, like typing my name or dialing a phone number. Then there’s data I create as a byproduct of my using a product. Economist Richard H. Thaler writes in the New York Times that companies should share usage data with their customers. “Show Us the Data. (It’s Ours, After All.)” reads the headline.

Is it really your data? It’s about you but the company spent time and money collecting that data, defining it, refining it, aggregating it, and turning it into something useful. Maybe they use it to serve you better. Or maybe they use it to drive down their costs, keep your prices high, and fight off competitors. Companies think of the data as theirs. 

The DataPortability Project put off deciding about this type of data at first. Should you have a right to data “about you” in addition to data “by you”? My gut says yes. This is co-created data, my behavior and the company’s observations.

We should both have access to it and data portability principles should apply.

What do you think?

If you can help me get my hands on my data, call me at +1-510-343-5664, Skype me, follow @dataportability and @evanwolf. Visit our steering group’s Skype backchannel, where we talk through data portability topics of the day.

P.S. Here’s an example in practice today. A person being photographed has economic and privacy rights. Professionals require model release forms before publishing photographs. The observed data, the photo, is a joint product of the artist and the subject.

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