on the topic of the GUID that is you, part 5

this is the final part of our discussion, big-data collection, as prompted by a recently released federal trade commission report; the links to all previous parts are at the bottom.


You don’t own that plane, the tax payers do! ~ Top Gun


in the final episode of Cosmos, Carl Sagan asks, “Who Speaks for Earth?” i’ll not come close to dr. sagan’s eloquence but i’ll ask a similar question, who speaks for your data? or, more precisely, who owns your data?

raise your hand if you think you do.

google this question, ‘who owns my data‘, and you’ll get some 27,000,000 responses in approx. 0.26 seconds. none of the results say, “You do.”

bought a song or movie? you don’t own it. bought an e-book?  same thing. bought a home on some land in montana? you don’t own what you think you own. in fact, up until one year ago today, someone else could own… you, and it took a u.s. supreme court decision to get you back in your own genes.

so what about your data? the short answer is, 1) it depends; and, 2) it’s complicated. with respect to my ralph’s data (illustrated in part 2), their privacy policy never specifies who owns the data they collect but it is assumed to be they who do. i emailed the kroger co. (remember, they are the parent co. of ralph’s) and asked the question… “who own’s the data about me that you collect?” they responded by pointing me to the same privacy policy. i responded and politely sated that their answer had nothing to do with my question, they replied, “…sorry but I’m not sure I understand your inquiry.”

likewise, it’s the same with respect to electricity data (collected by smartmeters or dumbmeters). no retail electric service provider i’ve found makes a declarative statement on who owns our usage data. everyone has some statement or privacy policy on what they don’t do with the data, but no one explicitly weighs-in on who actually owns the data. same thing here… i asked my local electric provider and apparently my request found a black hole.

it depends, and it’s complicated, in trying to just obtain an answer.

there are a plethora of research and opinion pieces on this topic and i’ll leave you to it, but there are two such pieces i recommend you begin with…

i’ll append my original answer with this and be done… 3) it’s safest to assume that you don’t and someone else does. adjust your habits and actions accordingly.

so how do you curtail what is collected about you? that’s easy… stop everything you’re doing right now and unplug yourself from every social-interface that exists. destroy every card, membership, or account you have. disavow every relationship you currently have and make no new ones. pay only in cash. see a vacuum cleaner man (a la walter white) for a new identity and resolve to live in a cave for the rest of your life with only two candles and a can of spam.

not up to the task, huh. even if you take obvious steps… stop buying online, stop using plastic, stop filling out forms and surveys for discount, and don’t join member-rewards programs… you’re still only making a tiny dent. and paying higher premiums on the things you buy.

for better or worse, the system is engineered to know you. if you’re insistent, however, perform you own research and let me know what you find. don’t use the internet, that leaves tracks so plan on hittin’ the books.

and for god’s sake don’t comment on this post, i’ll know who you are.


in addition to the emails i sent asking kroger and my electricity company, i contacted the ftc to ask why they did not address the issue of data ownership in their report. this is their reply:

Mr. Bateman,

Thank you for your interest in the report. In accordance with the Orders issued by the Commission (Appendix A), our report focuses on the data brokers’ information collection and use practices, as well as any choices that consumers have about the information.

[name redacted]

gotta love our government.

lastly, there’s a good essay by Ted Twietmeyer from rense.com titled, Do You Reallly Own Anything Except Toilet Paper?, if you’d like to delve into the semantics of ownership.



this is part 5 of a multi-part series. thanks for following along.



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