What are YOUR terms of service? The value of personal data

Crazy Kids by Heather Hughes

The New York Times nails it today: “personal data is the oil of the digital age.”  It has a price, and it serves as currency.  Except that we’re all expected to give it away in return for services like Facebook or Gmail, which we believe is a fair trade.  Or we don’t think about it whether the value is commensurate with what we’re getting in return.

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This is why I’m pulling the plug on my original Facebook profile today (through a “public execution” on New Day Northwest), precisely because I have begun to think about the value of my personal data (as stated here).  This has compelled a few of my friends asked whether I would ever post photos of my kids again.

I will do so infrequently, but will post them in a way that I retain full ownership (and a modicum of legal control) over them — such as on this blog.

Then I will share that post’s URL on Facebook — as I’ve done here.  It doesn’t get a royalty-free license over my photo, it can’t make money off of it, and it will not subject it to facial recognition algorithms. Read the insightful Photo Sharing and Face Tagging — Who Can You Trust? for more on the consequences of social networking terms of service.

My wife took this particular photo with her iPhone; she uses it as her screen saver.  This singular image tells the complete story of the joy and tribulations of parenthood.

All of this had inspired me to come up with my own (work-in-progress) Terms of Service for my personal data:

1. The content that I create is mine.

2. You may benefit from my data, but only the data that I expressly share with you as part of an equally weighted value proposition.  I get to use your service to fulfill a certain personal or professional objective, you get my data.

3. I will only share things online that I would normally publicly express in a conversation, a lecture, or in writing — unless I truly just want to give away for public benefit (ideally under a Creative Commons license).

4. (Wishful thinking, but read the Times piece) You should pay me for the use of “online me” in all other cases.

I’ve probably not taken everything into account with this, but it’s a first attempt.  What would your TOS be?

[It took another three or four actions to confirm final deletion of my original profile, but even then, I was told that I could revive it by signing back in again]