Transformation Design

Big Money Talk

Ambre Millies-Lacroix
Practice Commercial Practices
Project Branding
Major Transformation Design
Year Third Year

I found out that big data brokers sell packs of your data online.

Ambre Millies-Lacroix

I am a photographer, conceptual and social designer. Paying close attention to details is the ground base of my work. Very aware of what’s going on in pop-culture and different communities, I find it very important to speak on certain issues like social injustice and ignorance. I am always aiming to choose subjects that are close to my heart. I try to be as kind, smart, witty and passionate as I can be so that I can create content that encourages reflection and brings a new outlook on certain issues.

While working on Money Talk project I delved deeper into the topic of privacy. I am fascinated by the huge amount of data we give away daily. Big data companies like Google and Facebook know everything about us, from where we are to what we like to whom we like. They make millions off of this, but how come we get so little to none in return for the information we provide? Sure, we get to use the apps and services, but how does that relate to what we provide in terms of value?

“If you’re not paying for the product, you probably are the product.’’ This quote really struck me, so I chose it as the starting point of my concept. I wanted to know how much my personal data was worth, or to be precise, how much I am worth since I am the product and I don’t receive any paycheck for my services.

If you’re not paying for the product, you probably are the product.

I found out that big data brokers sell packs of your data online. The price that the advertisers are willing to pay per person for general information such as age, gender and location is $0.0005. If you are pregnant, shopping for a car or a house, your value increases to a whooping $0.0021. The total sum for most individuals is less than a dollar.
The data that is being sold is not your personal data, but it is aggregated into a typical buying profile like 'females interested in beauty' or 'males interested in technology products'.  For $0.26 per person, buyers can access the lists of people with specific health conditions or those who take certain prescriptions.

My next step was to find out how much my personal data was worth. I found a programme where you could fill in some general information about yourself (health, demographics, activities, etc.) and it would estimate a certain value. Since I am a student, do not own a boat nor a car and I am not planning a faraway vacation in the near future, my data worth amounts to $0,15 cents (yes, I was very disappointed too). So, a package of a 1000 people with similar interests and online activity as mine, will cost a company $150.

To illustrate how little this is in comparison to the huge amount of personal information we give away, I have obtained my entire YouTube search history data from my Google account and printed it out on receipt paper, as a timeline starting from 2013 until 2017. In total there were 386 receipts containing only my YouTube search history. Just imagine the huge amount of information in your YouTube history alone, and how it is such a tiny, tiny part of those $0,15 cents.

I then proceeded to track the YouTube history of two other friends and turned them into products as well. This was to show the different outcomes of what you give away online can influence your 'price'.  I labelled each product with the basic info of who you are on Google ‘s database.

The goal was to make people aware of how valuable our information is and how we are seen as a product and not persons. Hopefully, it will encourage us to take back some of that power into our own hands.


Curious about other projects Ambre is working on? Visit her website!