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Monetizing Your Personal Data

By Keith Kirkpatrick

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 65 No. 1, Pages 17-19

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During the initial wave of commercialization of the Internet in the mid-to-late 1990s, companies began collecting personal information from visitors to their Websites. The value proposition laid out by Internet companies seemed simple: allow companies to track and capture user behavioral and demographic data, in exchange for free access to content, as well as a more personalized and tailored experience that was based on an individual's browsing and shopping habits.

However, few users or market observers could have projected the evolution of the market for data, which has become far more complex and valuable than previously imagined. In fact, large companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Alibaba, among others, have generated massive profits by leveraging the data collected, not only using it to improve the personalization and usability of their own sites, but by reselling that data to advertisers, to the tune of billions of dollars per year. In fact, March 2021 data from eMarketer indicated the Internet advertising market generated $378.2 billion in 2020, and projected that figure will rise to nearly $646 billion by 2024.


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