A recent article by Eduardo Porter posted on “The New York Times” raises attention to a very important issue many of us haven’t concerned themselves with – shouldn’t we be paid for the data we upload online?
We spend quite a few hours, browsing social media, on daily basis and the data we upload is far more valuable than one could imagine. Social media providers gain directly with help of the data we upload for free. For instance, such data is widely used for targeted advertising and this is the least terrifying thing for which it is being used. What really rings the bell is data we share is also used for the training of the A.I. systems. The innocent picture of your kitten you’ve uploaded yesterday or the video from your son’s birthday may be used to teach A.I. systems to perform a task like image recognition, voice transcription, voice translation etc. The development of the A.I. systems is impossible without vast amount of data, which we share absolutely free of charge.
It may not seem as bad at the first glance because we use social media for free, sometimes we have to look at annoying advertisements, but it doesn’t go anywhere from that. So, at first sight, it may indeed seem like a good deal providing our data as the price of using social media. However, according to Porter’s article, we are being victimized:
”In the largest technology companies, the share of income going to labor is only about 5 to 15 percent. That’s way below Walmart’s 80 percent. Consumer data is the work they get for free.”
He also reinforced the point by referring to “Radical Markets” by Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl, they argue:
“If these A.I.-driven companies represent the future of broader parts of the economy, without something basic changing in their business model, we may be headed for a world where labor’s share falls dramatically from its current roughly 70 percent to something closer to 20 to 30 percent.”
It is kind of ironic that people are willingly sharing free data to train artificial intelligence which is actively replacing workers across the economy. What makes it even more ironic is that according to Niraj Chokshi’s article most Americans see A.I. as a threat to jobs. Yet people are sharing their data without having a second thought that such data may be used to replace them in the long run.
It is rather naive to think that giants of data collection will start paying users for their data. Relying on policymakers in hopes that they will take a step in this direction seems like beating a dead horse, because it is profitable for the economy to replace a human worker with an A.I. What we can do is to be more reserved when posting yet another post on social media and maybe the decrease of data going to data collectors will draw their attention and they will consider giving a certain value to our data. However, that is just an opinion. Certainly, there is a better deal somewhere in the future, than sharing our personal data for free.