Tech giants can follow the YouTube model to distribute gains

Tech giants, Youtube, YouTube model, facebook, privacy activists, Siri, data mining

As Facebook makes billions off data, it leaves millions wondering how it monetised information.

“All I want is a slice, not the cake.” Imagine the disappointment when you realise that cake, which you made and got to the party was good, but you couldn’t have a slice of it. Most internet users feel the same way. As Facebook makes billions off data, it leaves millions wondering how it monetised information. It is not just Facebook, increasingly all tech giants, are making money off data, and there’s little you can do about it. There is no slice for the consumer.

Dialling back could be one thing. But ask those who logged into Hi5, Orkut and, finally, Facebook. There was no turning back; every thing on these platforms had them hooked. It is not just social media, now, there are offerings from Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple that mine user data.

While many wouldn’t mind the data mining and tech giants profiting off their data, there are many who would. Privacy activists rue the impact these services have had on personal lives. Nothing is private anymore. After news broke out that companies have been listening to devices to provide better services, most have become averse. Earlier, when Siri would activate accidentally on my phone, I would ignore. Now, I look at it with suspicion and rush to turn the service off. The trust, whatever little there was, has been lost, thanks to the many, many data-privacy related scandals that have broken recently. While that may not seem to matter to the companies, increasingly, the consumers—or, in this case, users—are pushing for privacy.

Surprisingly, and ironically, both Google and Facebook have a solution to regain market trust. Starting 2007, YouTube began sharing revenues with its creators to encourage them to post content; 55% of the earnings would accrue to the creator as YouTube took the rest. The views or impressions model (both are different) helped the company to retain content creators and add more people as they promoted brands. Revenue sharing allowed more people to load their videos on the platform to become YouTube sensations—some went on to rake in millions. Facebook is doing this now. But, the idea has a limited reach. While people are getting paid for the data and the following they generate, money is still out of the hands of many who watch these videos and reveal their preference. And, these are the ones who are angry with tech giants for their lack of public interest.

Although it would be foolish to assume that all this could have been delivered for free, the problem is not data but how it has been extracted. Long and tiring privacy agreements leave no choice with the customer but to provide access to her data. As consumers grow more aware of their privacy, there is bound to be a pushback. Companies know that not many would complain as long as they keep getting free services. But, they also need to realise that the older models cannot run for long, and they need a solution.

The YouTube model can be the way forward. Let’s say each time Amazon sells your personal information, it pays you 20 cents from each dollar it earns. It would be unfair for companies to cough up everything, but the least one can expect is a share of the pie.

As far as data is concerned, not many would complain if there is payment for it, and many may even pay to opt-out of trials. Consumers need to realise “after all you can’t have the cake and eat it too”. And, had it not been for these giants you would never have known how good was the cake to begin with.