Making firms pay for data they take from individuals

How to make companies pay for data they take from individuals

Imagine a device, maybe in the form of a hat, cap or helmet, that blocks all the data leaving your physical person — from the data about your health to the information about your thoughts, the choices you make, the things you look at, the words you speak, what you write… absolutely everything about you — every bit of data you generate. 

At the moment, all such data could be classed as “lost” data, in the sense that it’s lost by the individuals who generate that data.

One might ask: “Who/what/where is it lost to?”

Good question.

Big tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and so on have become experts at capturing at least some of that lost data, mostly through your online activity — your social media accounts, the cookies that you allow onto your computers, the websites you visit, and so on.

In an interview with, venture capitalist James Cham, who has invested in numerous artificial intelligence companies, says AI-led companies need our data, and questions why we are giving it away free.

Cham says: “I think that we, as a community, will realize at some point the value of our data and probably figure out ways to make that cost something for companies. Right now, a lot of companies are getting a free ride.”

With a data-blocking helmet, we could choose who to give our data to and what price to charge for it. It might look like a silly contraption, but it could be the most invaluable device in history.

Whoever manages to build the first commercial version of such a device may well become the richest person ever.

The open-source brain-computer interface project (OpenBCI) has made available a range of resources which may end up with such a data-gateway type of device and application.

So far, OpenBCI has been used for leisure or gaming activities, and controlling robots and machines with the power of thought, but it’s only a matter of time before it’s put to more serious use in the other direction — instead of using it to send out thoughts more efficiently, it’s used to prevent thoughts from being lost to the AI companies.