Should Facebook pay us for our puppy pictures?
Of course, the idea sounds crazy. Posting puppies on Facebook is not a chore. We love it: Facebook’s 1.4 billion daily users spend the better part of an hour on it every day. It’s amazing that we don’t have to pay for it.
And yet the idea is gaining momentum in Silicon Valley and beyond: Facebook and the other technological Goliaths offering free online services — from which they harvest data from and about their users — should pay for every nugget of information they reap.
The spring break pictures on Instagram, the YouTube video explaining Minecraft tactics, the internet searches and the Amazon purchases, even your speed following Waze on the way to spend Thanksgiving with your in-laws — this data is valuable. It will become more valuable, potentially much more so, in the not-too-distant future.
Getting companies to pay transparently for the information will not just provide a better deal for the users whose data is scooped up as they go about their online lives. It will also improve the quality of the data on which the information economy is being built. And it could undermine the data titans’ stranglehold on technology’s future, breathing fresh air into an economylosing its vitality.