1 A history of data


This chapter covers

  • What occurs as we create data through our online and offline actions
  • The ramifications and implications of creating data that we do not control
  • How the current data ecosystem originated
  • Why we do not understand the true nature of data ownership
  • A review of inaccurate descriptions of the primary characteristics of data

The path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.1 

—Tim Cook

Digital data was a minor and relatively static component in our parents’ and grandparents’ lives. Almost no attention was paid to it, and rightly so. Data was local, relatively static, and was not easily shared. There was almost no infrastructure to share data between individuals or companies and even less interest in collecting, analyzing, and leveraging data—the tools for managing and integrating data were, for the most part, paper based.

Today, digital data is a ubiquitous element in our lives. Our ability to create, store, integrate, manage, analyze, and leverage it has been transformed dramatically. Data about almost every individual and each online action taken is collected constantly and consistently.

What has not changed are the general public’s views about data. This is the primary reason that motivated me to write this book: we, as individuals, need to change our views on data.

In this book we will look at the opportunities available to all of us to protect, manage, own, and monetize our own data. Let’s begin our discussion.

1.1 A concerning situation

1.1.1 Life cycle of a video, picture, text, email, or file

1.1.2 All your online actions create permanent records of your activity

1.1.3 Intelligent choices

1.2 An example: Genetic testing and reporting

1.2.1 Genetic sequencing

1.3 The beginnings of modern data

1.3.1 Commercial data and analytics: Data as a valuable commodity

1.3.2 How our data rights and right to compensation were diverted

1.3.3 Let’s jump forward to the late 20th century... in the UK