From: Yona Maro
WHAT is a tweet worth? Not a lot, but it stacks up. Twitter, which has yet to turn a profit, was valued at an eye-watering $18.1 billion when it made its stock market debut last week – far more than many tried and tested companies.
What underpins this value? As Twitter users were quick to point out, it is their contributions. An online gizmo allowing tweeters to estimate how much they had personally generated went viral: New Scientist staff reported credits from a measly $1 to a handy $847.
That was mostly a joke. But it highlights the gulf between the value people place on their own information – and the value that others do. Most individual bits of data are worthless; it’s only in the aggregate that they become valuable. And we get valuable online services in exchange for handing over our data.
But this transaction is starting to feel more myopic than pragmatic. Twitter’s investors may be betting on advertising revenue, but the company’s trove of data can be used to analyse everything from the stock market (including, perhaps, its own share price) to food safety. That may, in the long run, prove more lucrative.
So far, much of this data has been relatively accessible. But it may not stay that way. Internet companies have started giving users greater control over their personal data. But they may start to restrict access as it grows more valuable: after all, they have their sky-high valuations to defend.
Yona Fares Maro
Institut d’études de sécurité – SA