If the service is free, you are the product. In fact, internet giants such Facebook, Google, Pinterest and LinkedIn make huge profits with the information we all add to our accounts and through our behavior on the web. Now, Telefonica wants to turn the table and have the giants pay us for our data.
Do you know your social media value? Well, that value depends of the platform. Just a few years ago investors were willing to pay $168 per Facebook account at the IPO. Today, a LinkedIn account is valuated at $64 and Twitter at $54. So while you feed these giants voluntarily, they rake in big bucks. A bit unfair, isn’t it? But now, we the powerless people are getting support from some mighty allies in the fight against the internet giants.
The telecom sector has already been complaining for years that internet companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Uber are making money with the free use of the telecom company’s networks. Spain’s Telefónica is actually now providing a way out for customers – giving them full insight in, and control over their data traffic. Subscribers can thus use their personal data consumption to ask for money or free services from companies like Google and Facebook. The move by Telefonica is to provide transparency to their customers about data traffic and the value of digital information – and to ultimately let customers use that information in the fight against Google and social media.
It’s also important to note the hidden load of traffic that jams up network infrastructure daily. It’s so big that tech analyst DeviceAtlas estimates bots and crawlers may represent up to 50% of web traffic. That hidden traffic ranges from legitimate search engine crawlers indexing web content, to automated traffic generated by advertisers, monitoring companies, and others that are triggered by our social media profiles and behavior. Despite all this – most social media users are unaware of the impact of this traffic.
If Telefónica succeeds, it would be the first time that companies like Google and Facebook would be forced to pay for using telecom companies infrastructure. Previously, attempts by the industry to enforce this through telecom regulators have failed.
It’s also in the telecom sector’s best interest to play along. Telecom operators are prohibited by law to exploit the wealth of information found in the telephone and data traffic of their customers. Companies like Google and Facebook though are not limited as their users provide their data voluntarily – getting targeted ads in return. But now, Brussels is working on new rules that give equal treatment to both telecommunications and social media companies.
The launch of Telefónica’s new platform with the digital dashboard for subscribers is planned for 2017. When it’s released customers will be able to place a price tag on the data consumption that social media companies enforce, and that consumers ultimately have to pay for.
The initiative might play out well, but there is a big concern because it could endanger net neutrality. In our opinion, net neutrality should not apply to the user side of the infrastructure only, but also to the supply side. Indiscriminate use of the network, by providers and users, by giants and by the small people, is of utmost importance. That is the only way for us all to prosper off the digital transformation we are in for.
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