British engineer and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the now 20-year-old World Wide Web, recently had some interesting things to say about the data collected by technology companies. First, he argued that the data in question is more valuable to the user on an individual basis than it is to any given firm.
"Well if it's so valuable to these companies then why can't I sell it? I don't think it's the value to a company," Berners-Lee told The Guardian in an interview. "My computer has a good understanding of my state of fitness, the things I'm eating, the places I'm eating, where I am, where I go, and so on. My phone understands from being, in my pocket, how much exercise I've been getting and how many stairs I've been walking up and so on. In fact, that's completely valuable information for me to use. For me."
Berners-Lee went further. He believes that users should demand to get their data back from Internet giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Not only that, but he believes this data will one day be delivered in a much more useful format, and users should fight to get it that way.
"The computer could be very valuable if I have the value of my data," Berners-Lee said. "One of the issues of social networking silos is that they have the data and I don't. Certainly, people have gone around and demanded their data. So Google has in fact a you-can-have-your-data-back policy. I think there will be consumer pressure on companies to provide that data. But then maybe we need to see standardization between them or products that do conversion."
While I don't believe Twitter has such an option, Facebook has a Download Your Information tool, but it has been heavily criticized for two main reasons: not including all your information and not delivering it in a format that is easy to parse. Berners-Lee wants you, the Facebook user, to demand better.