Year 1500 - Paris, France
The Dutch Philosopher Desiderius Erasmus published a book of proverbs. Titled "Collecteana Adagiorum", this has mercifully been shortened to "Adagia" over the centuries. The proverbs in the book tended to date back to ancient latin and greek texts. One such proverb included in the book was "In regione caecorum rex est luscus" - better known today as "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king".
Year 2004 April - Menlo Park, California
In 2004 on April 1st (Yes .... April fools day!) Google which had been around for just 6 years launched its GMAIL product. Six hundred and four years after Erasmus printed his helpful proverbs, Google had realised that the more they could know about its' customers, the more data it gathered, it would quickly develop into the one-eyed king of the advertising cyber-space.
Of course the value of data did not go unnoticed, and a rush followed to hoover up as much personal information as possible on each of us. In a short period of time, most product and services providers on the web presented online customers (you and me) with comprehensive "Terms & Conditions" which we would need to accept to receive their free offerings (email, social media, apps). These terms and conditions, written in legalese and incomprehensible to the average user, became mini books .... page after page. With increasing frustration and decreasing desire to read the terms and conditions in totality we agreed that these providers could collect and use our data. Our individual data, was in itself the real payment for the services we received (for free, or almost free). In cyber-space like on planet earth, there is no free lunch!.
Data was very quickly touted as the new oil industry. (One cynic called it the new snake-oil!). And the more specific the information, the higher the value. Before long, each of us had been sliced and diced and then allocated into psycho-graphic segments. The data was then sold to marketers who today (2019) are provided your data every time you interact with their offerings. This enables real time auctions of your data (see WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU USE GOOGLE SEARCH?) And just as the nascent oil industry was dominated by monopolistic corporate giants, the data harvesting industry in the 21st century is currently dominated by a group of data behemoths - a band of Data Cyclops, the true one-eyed kings in the information age.
Year 2019 January - Davos, Switzerland
The World Economic Forum held its annual gathering of the corporate elite (news reports quoted 1,500 private jets scattered in the surrounding airports) in the alpine ski resort of Davos. Of course, even the elite want to be more elite than others, and the proceedings are governed by a hierarchical structure managed by the colour of your access badge. The big cheeses have a white badge with a hologram. For everyone else there is a rainbow of colours which allow quick identification of that badge holders ranking in the hierarchy!
One of the white badge holders, The Google Chief Financial Officer Rachel Porat, explained to attendees that data is more like sunlight than oil. It can possibly be interpreted that Google (perhaps the market leader in data collection) is reacting to the negative connotations around oil metaphors. The data market will no doubt follow the actions of their market leader.
With continuous cyber-attacks (see Outpost24 - top 10 largest hacks as of December 2018) it will be interesting to see if we the Users, bask in the sunny uplands of complete data privacy in 2019, or if the aggregate collectors of data manage to haemorrhage our personal details into an ever growing black market which waits, ready to commoditise our data for nefarious purposes.
We can only hope that in 2019 the Cyclopes (e.g. Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook etc) give you and me only positive, sunny reasons to hope that scamming, spamming, phishing, spoofing and related misuses can all be consigned to history. Otherwise, no amount of bright metaphors will recompense for the personal pain resulting from data leakage.
Length: 625 Words.
Time to read 3 Minutes
2019, January 26