Throughout time, successful enterprises, governments and individuals control a commodity of the age that is perceived to be of great value. Sometimes the value is short lived, others go on for decades.
In early times, the ability to transport products or people was of high value. In other days, the ability to transact commerce in an efficient manner was of extreme value as many lands throughout Asia and Europe were trying to find a universal commodity of value to conduct trade. Electricity was considered of high value as man moved into the next era of modernization; everything had to be “electric”. I am certain food and water will eventually return to the front of high value as the world expands and finds shortages in both.

Today, data, or information about people and their lives, has reached a point of high value to the extent that a company with large amounts of data on people is worth over $100 billion. These market values recently were reinforced by valuing a similar company that is just three months old at $10 million. The only asset of the new company is a list of people who say they like each other.

Enterprises across the globe are scrambling to access valid data about people to modify and market products and services as this resource has been determined of high value. The actual value has yet to be proven valid.

The nagging question becomes, who owns the information? Who owns the data? Do the individuals own their own data? How about when the individual shares this information with the companies and services where the data is stored? Did the individuals knowingly agree to give up ownership of the data? Did they knowingly give permission to use the data? No one is sure and few individuals understand the real control, ownership or future use of the resource. Even Google and Facebook disagree with each other regarding how personal data should be treated. One is very open to treating it as a free resource, almost public data, and the other believes it is owned by the enterprise once shared with the company through forms, services and “likes”. The recent comment by Larry Page, CEO of Google in Bloomberg BusinessWeek demonstrates the conflict. Mr. Page remarked, “They

[Facebook] claim that users don’t own that data, which is a total specious claim. It’s completely unreasonable”. Facebook views the personal data as owned by the company. Do the users agree? I think some users do, while others might disagree strongly.

On an investment level you need to be aware of the fact that companies involved in the “networking” industry have high values based on the current perceived value of this data. The values may be accurate, or suspect, and might create complications for these companies as definitions and responsibilities are further defined.

As an individual, I think people should be very careful and completely understand who has the data, how will they use it, and what are the responsibilities for keeping the data secure or made available?

It is a valuable resource and individuals should treat it as such. Individual information is a new commodity of perceived value.

As Elmer Fudd said, “Be verrwe careful out there Mr. Rabbit.”