Rethinking how we value data

EVERYONE KNOWS that data are worth something. The biggest companies in the world base their businesses on them. Artificial-intelligence algorithms guzzle them in droves. But data are not like normal traded goods and services, such as apples and haircuts. They can be used time and again, like public goods. They also have spillover effects, both positive, such as helping to improve health care, and negative, such as breaches of personal information. That makes them far from easy to value.

A new report, led by Diane Coyle, an economist at the University of Cambridge, attempts to address this by understanding the value of data and who stands to benefit from it. She says market prices often do not ascribe full value to data because, in many cases, trading is too thin. Moreover, while much of society’s emphasis is on the dangers of misuse of personal data, the report chooses to highlight data’s contribution to “the broad economic well-being of all of society.” That gives it a much deeper value than a simple monetary one.

She outlines a variety of data types and uses. Some may be more useful in aggregate, others for individual purposes. For example, a patient’s medical records may be most valuable when they are combined with everyone else’s, while web-browsing history has value when it is used individually to bombard a person...



via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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