Imagine if you went out and bought a new car for $30,000. Then, the company that sold you that car got $5 for every mile you drove. That is essentially what is happening with the data you generate using almost any Internet based technology.
The data you generate is worths thousands of dollars. Most people do not believe this, but consider the following. If you have a smart phone your every movement is tracked to some degree. If you have any app that allows you to pay for services or receive money, that behavior is also tracked. This might seem innocuous but consider what a massive amount of this data could be used for.
Person X’s behavior is tracked, along with 100 million other people. Machine learning is able to take this data and create more effective marketing materials and tailor shopping ads to things that might interest you. For instance, the population that gets coffee from the Indiana Avenue Starbucks have a lot in common. They are mostly college students and professors, people that either have (or will have) considerable buying power. How valuable might it be for a company to know all the other things someone does throughout their day after buying coffee? Check in on a course management app (Canvas, Blackboard, etc) then get an Uber ride to the bars, where they use Apple Pay or Venmo to get drinks/food. Collecting large amounts of this data is a goldmine for companies.
Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) has introduced legislation that will strengthen citizen’s control over their data, how it can be used and who can see it. While there is still more to do, the fact that this is receiving attention at the federal level is truly a positive thing. You might consider calling your Senators (actually calling) and ask them to support this bill.