Rent My Life

by Francesco Pagano

Rent My Life

In a world where we can rent everything, why should we own anything at all? The liberal answer may say that modern democracies are based on private property. And, my mind goes immediately at John Locke and his natural rights. Do we need, or do we have to protect at least, private property? I am not sure this is ‘the’ question. I have another one, which sounds more pragmatic, and yet is as important. If personal data is the most private of our properties, the liberal approach to its free vs. limited trading is that, under the right circumstances, a fair exchange will generate individual and social progress. I agree. My point here is that we are underpricing our digital life. Its value is hard to assess. Those who know are buying low and flying high.

For example, do I own my selfie? Do I understand in full how many times it is being used? And, do I get compensated for its exploitation in perpetuity? The answers are no, no, and no. Most importantly, I am not rewarded for the unique content that I am creating every single day. The price of my data, whether it is borrowed or stolen, remains minuscule, as there is no marketplace for it. Companies, media and institutions are having a free ride.

This is an intriguing pricing exercise. Let me go through a couple of points.

First, and differently from any tangible work of our creativity, the price of data is not a matter of quality or taste. A selfie at the beach cannot be considered too silly to be legitimate work. All data matters, and they help to define patterns and socio-demographic profiles, which shape Marketing campaigns or public policies.

Second, it is not a matter of quantity. A few years ago we were all in awe of eco-systems. Data, we were told, becomes more valuable as more people join a network. This why we are paying Facebook for every click that takes place on their turf. But, artificial intelligence is now able to reduce the gap between big and small data, making individualization as relevant as socialization. For example, Marketeers can chase large and small audiences, tapping into tribes as well as large networks, be it amazon or instagram. Marketeers can run a national display campaign and a surgical one-to-one dialogue, using the same exact data. The ‘You’ has become as accessible as the ‘We,’ and probably as valuable. Artificial intelligence has exponentially increased the power of advertisers, and productivity has grown, per the old economics jargon, without any of the benefits being redistributed with the ‘workers,’ namely the creators of all information.

The lack of national and international regulation on personal data creates advantages for everyone but those who mix, to paraphrase John Locke, their own work with the outer environment. Procter & Gamble, a consumer goods company and one of the world’s largest advertisers, has been spending less and less in Marketing over the past years. Early August, it has announced a further cut in spend, as it hopes to gain efficiencies by targeting the right audiences in a smarter way. Target information has become cheap and abundant.

Data will be used to make the world a better place. But, individuals should be paid every time their data is used, borrowed, rented, stolen, consolidated and analyzed, as they are not getting their fair share of the gains. Thanks to artificial intelligence and technology, we will be able enter people’s lives at virtually no cost. New rights and obligations arise from the wealth of data generated by continuous, reliable and accurate tracking of every man and woman on the globe. A selfie at the beach is so banal, and yet you can’t steal it. It’s not yours, but you can buy it for the right price. You know what I will purchase, before I do. So, here is my bill back for renting my life.

 
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Franceso PaganoFrancesco Pagano, Vice President, EMEA Head of Portfolio of Licenses Brands at Fossil Group Europe, is passionate about craft brands, innovation, brand management, brand communication and international business. He is always up for irresistible product concepts, ultimate communication via integrated campaigns and great Italian food.

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