We are told by many that “data is the new oil”, or “data is the new gold”, or maybe even other forms of tangible assets. This might be a good way to make the headlines and express the value of data, but that is also where the comparison between data and tangible assets ends even before it started.
Data is not an asset you hold or even can claim ownership over. To make it even more complicated: data is also not a non-tangible asset. In fact, data is not an asset in the classical definition of an asset. You might have parts of it, but you never completely own it. There is no value definition for data itself. The value is created by what you do with data.
Taking that thought forward, most organizations do not effectively protect the data they manage. What they do is protect the value that they create with the data that they manage. In the same way, they also do not really protect the privacy of the individuals from whom they manage data. They simply protect the value they create by managing private data from individuals.
And that is why statements like “data is the new oil” are both incorrect and misleading. In case a person or organization owns a tangible asset like oil or gold, or a non-tangible asset like intellectual property or a franchise license, they protect the entire asset and not just the value or profit generated by it.
When it comes to data, most individuals still need to learn to understand the importance of protecting their own data, and once they do, they come to the realization that they generate so much data in our digitized society that they depend on all the organizations that hold, share, process, sell, and distribute their data.
Organizations on the other hand, tend to at least protect their own business data to some extent, but hardly consider data protection when there is no definition of value established. When it comes to protecting data of others, the value of data appears to be outweighing ethics and responsibilities towards privacy and data protection, if these evaluations even take place.
Companies with great statements about their data protection efforts and slogans like “we value your privacy” although their entire online presence is traced by Facebook Pixel or Google Analytics, and in many cases even both, are no exception. A perfect example of how the ability to collect data appears to outweigh any concerns about sharing that and more information with corporations that made a business based on the exploitation of business. It also doesn’t appear relevant that by sharing data they enable others to generate value from that data. All that matters is their own ability to generate value from data!
Data is not the new oil and data is also not the new gold. Data is business!
Recommended reading: Everybody Wants to Rule the World: Surviving and Thriving in a World of Digital Giants by R “Ray” Wang