Personal data: a market dominated by opacity



On social networks, e-commerce sites, or simply on search engines, everyone leaves behind a trail of information: name, address, health, political opinion, mood, tastes, friends, geolocation, habits. ‘purchases…

This data is then processed and used as much as possible. Difficult to estimate, the value of the data market in the European Union could reach 105 billion euros by 2025, according to the firm IDC and the laboratory of ideas The Lisbon Council. This market was estimated at more than 9 billion euros in France in 2019.

An advertising windfall for the platforms

It is now a known fact that this information is used to advertise online, a market largely in the hands of Google and Facebook. “When you connect, the site will for example recognize that you have already done research on used vehicle sitesrecalls Simon Chignard, expert in data governance. In a few milliseconds, a system launches auctions to all potential advertisers such as insurers or banks and asks them how much they are willing to pay to display an advertisement. » In 2020, revenue from advertising accounted for 98% of Facebook’s revenue and 81% of Google’s, or just over $231 billion for the two companies, according to the World Federation of Advertisers.

But the web giants aren’t the only ones crazy about data. “The keyword of this market is opacitysummarizes Simon Chignard. If it is mainly managed by Google and Facebook, this information is then propagated to hundreds and hundreds of companies. In the end, the user does not really know what happens after giving consent. »

Typical profiles

Because the value of data resides above all in their cross-referencing with other data. “It is not your data or you as an individual that is interestingdeciphers Florence Sèdes, computer science professor at the University of Toulouse and researcher at Irit-CNRS. You are mainly used to feed a large factory that allows you to build clusters, classify and define categories in populations. »

This is what data brokers do in an unscrupulous market dominated by American companies. Thanks to the data purchased from the platforms and those that are freely accessible, these “data brokers” cross-check and enrich this information before reselling it to companies which can thus target typical consumer profiles, such as financially vulnerable people or families on about to expand. And the political field is no exception: evidenced by the recent case of SMS targeting of Jewish citizens by a former presidential candidate, who would have used a “broker” to do so. A preliminary investigation was opened in April by the Paris prosecutor’s office.

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