In the digital age, is privacy money?


Welcome to the digital age! This is a world where people’s lives are increasingly connected to the Internet. The development of information technology, especially the rapid development of Internet technology and artificial intelligence technology, has promoted the formation and development of a digital society. Digital technology has changed people’s way of life and work. People are increasingly relying on digital technology for work, learning, shopping, entertainment and other activities, and digital life has become an important component of people’s daily lives. The regulations that people accept when using websites allow websites and platforms to collect a lot of personal information. People’s information is constantly collected, stored, and analyzed. And these collected personal information have become the “resources” of the digital age. In the digital age, digital technology has driven the transformation and upgrading of economic structure. However, while bringing opportunities to social development, it has also brought many challenges that have attracted social attention, such as privacy protection. Digital platform companies control vast amounts of personal data and are opaque about the algorithmic processes that collect and process the data (Flew, 2021). In the digital age, people need to deepen their awareness of privacy and platform companies. In this blog post, we will explore the definition of people’s digital privacy, the impact of digital privacy on different subjects, and how to protect our digital privacy.


·Definition of privacy

The right to privacy is important to everyone. Privacy is a complex concept. Privacy can be understood as a general term for information that one doesn’t want to be shared, or as an act to protect oneself as an independent individual, and there are other different understandings of privacy. For example, the information that you don’t want to let others know is your privacy, such as your age, sexual orientation and so on. Besides, your ability to keep personal information you don’t want to share with others is also your privacy. Alexandra Rengel (2013) believes that the concept of privacy includes the ability to protect oneself from unnecessary contact with others, the right to confidentiality, the ability to control personal information, the ability to protect personality and dignity, and the ability to control intimate relationships or all aspects of life.

·Privacy in the digital age

Privacy in the digital age is a complex concept that is constantly evolving. Privacy in the digital age includes the personal information people leave on the Internet, people’s digital footprints and so on. As the interface between individuals and the Internet, personal electronic products have added more offline information to people’s digital privacy. For example, some applications and websites can collect your real-time position. Besides, the rise of artificial intelligence technologies and big data analytics further complicates privacy issues. Companies and platforms can collect and analyze people’s private information to calculate their preferences through algorithms. This collection and analysis of information poses a risk to people’s privacy in the digital age.


In the digital age, who collects our personal information and how do they collect our personal information? The answer to this question can be found in our experience with the Internet. Some of you may notice ‘COOKIE’ when surfing on the Internet. ‘COOKIE’ is a randomly generated string of numbers and letters. and it tells us the rules of the platform. When people log on to a platform or website,  ‘COOKIE’ often pops up to ask if they agree to provide information in order to receive personalized services. In addition, some platforms and websites require people to agree to their privacy policy or people will not be able to use them. These ‘cookies’ and privacy policies are often described in a very long text, and people generally do not read them. There’s no point in reading it, because some platforms and websites restrict people’s use if they don’t agree with the privacy policy. Legally speaking, social media platforms are owned by the companies that built them, and these companies have virtually total control over how they are managed (Suzor, 2019). Therefore, if people want to use the platform or website, they almost have to accept the rules set by the platform or website unconditionally. After people choose to accept the rules of the platform or website, the platform or website gains the right to collect and analyze people’s data. This process can also be understood as people paying for the platform and website with their personal information in order to obtain the right to use the platform or website.

Platforms and websites get people’s first-hand information, they collect people’s data and analyze it. However, it’s not just platforms and websites that hold people’s information. The platform’s data is sold or provided to other organizations, such as production companies or governments.

DATA and MONEY (Monetization of information)

When a platform or website collects and analyzes people’s personal information, they can use it for financial gain. In other words, people’s data and privacy will become real economic benefits. The process of transforming information into tradable goods or services to achieve economic value is information monetization. In the digital age, the collection and analysis of personal information have different benefits for different subjects.

·To production companies

For producers who purchase user information from websites or platforms, the way they use data is indirect information monetization. Indirect approaches to information monetization include using data to reduce costs, increase productivity, reduce risk, develop new products or markets, and build and consolidate relationships (Laney, 2017). For production companies, buying people’s data from platforms and websites helps them identify potential customers and paint a picture of them. Without the data collected by platforms or websites, production companies need to spend more labor costs to conduct market research to obtain consumer data. But nowadays, by buying people’s data directly from platforms or websites, production companies have reduced the cost of collecting and analyzing information, providing a good foundation for product or market development and building relationships with consumers. In this process, the data collected by people becomes the economic cost saved by production companies. Therefore, the indirect monetization of information is realized.

We can also understand the monetization of information in a different direction. When the production companies master the relevant data of consumers and analyze the preferences of consumers through big data technology and artificial intelligence technology, they can output personalized advertising information to consumers and increase the purchase rate of consumers. Do you find it easy to find items you are interested in on social media platforms or websites? Behind this phenomenon is an algorithm that analyzes your preferences based on your personal information, and then pushes you the product information you are interested in. Your privacy and data are collected and analyzed to identify your profile and then serve you personalized ads based on your profile. These personalized ads often have a higher conversion rate, which can generate more revenue for production companies. From this perspective, the data collected and analyzed will bring higher profits to production companies. This is also a manifestation of information monetization.

Besides, for production companies, more data means a greater likelihood of financial gain. Between company A and company B, which produce the same product, the one who has a better understanding of the consumer market has an advantage in the competition to sell the product. This is the difference brought by information asymmetry. Who gets more market data, who has more information, the more accurate grasp of the market. This is also the economic benefit that data brings to production companies.

·To platforms/ websites

For platforms and websites that collect user information, they can directly profit from selling the data and analyzing the results. The Giant Star Map platform owned by Douyin is a good example. At present, Douyin is a very popular social media platform in China with many users. Users are required to agree to Douyin’s privacy policy when they first use it. Douyin’s Giant Star Map platform is the platform that Douyin uses to sell data that they collected. The Giant Star Map platform serves organizations such as advertising agencies, brand companies and MCNs, providing them with the data they need for market research. Organizations such as brands and advertising agencies pay for access to the Giant Star Map platform, where they can then see data such as fan portraits from different influencers. The fan portraits of the influencers on the Douyin platform provided by the Giant Star Map platform are relatively full, including the gender, age and residence city of the fans. This information helps brands and advertising agencies analyze whether a Douyin influencer’s fan base is their potential customer base, and thus identify which Douyin influencers to partner with for product promotion. In the case of the Giant Star Map platform, it makes money directly by selling the results of data analysis. Laney (2017) regards the analysis of data as a microscope, while how to make good use of the analyzed data is a telescope, and the insight obtained from the analysis of data is of greater value. Brands and advertising agencies buy data to understand and analyze markets, and people’s data is insight into the process. The Giant Star Map platform collects and analyzes user data and then sells it to third parties, allowing other companies to conduct data analysis and market research on this basis, and help companies formulate marketing strategies and product development plans. This process turns people’s data into more valuable insights that provide business benefits.



In digital age, it is no doubt that the information and data are money. Information economics argues that information should be treated as a new asset class because it has measurable economic value and other attributes that qualify it to be accounted for and managed as any other recognized type of asset (Laney, 2017). However, the common users don’t benefit from the economic benefits that are generated by basing on their data. This monetization of information takes place between companies and platforms. As ordinary users of the Internet, what we should do is to protect our digital privacy as much as possible. For example, why not opt out of the privacy policies of platforms and web pages when you sign up to use them? In fact, there are some platforms and web pages that allow users to not accept their ‘COOKIE’. At the same time, it’s true that the preferences we learn from analyzing our online data can help us choose the goods and services we want faster. Therefore, we need to critically view the collection and analysis of personal information by platforms and websites. Information monetization brings business opportunities and economic benefits to platforms and websites, but it also requires platforms and websites to shoulder the responsibility of protecting user privacy and digital security. Nowadays, information monetization has become a common phenomenon, but the constraints on platforms and websites are not enough. This requires society to pay attention to protecting people’s digital privacy and digital security, and strengthen the network governance of platforms and websites.


Rengel, A. (2013). Privacy in the 21st century. BRILL.

Flew, T. (2021). Issues of Concern. In T. Flew, Regulating platforms  (pp. 72–79). Polity.

Laney, D. B. (2017). Infonomics : How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information as an Asset for Competitive Advantage (1st edition). Taylor and Francis.

Suzor, N. P. (2019). A lawless internet. Cambridge Core.

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