Every day, as you browse the Internet and carry your mobile phone, you create and share data about yourself. This data of the people and by the people is the most important economic resource of the twenty-first century, as important as oil. And as with oil, the real value comes from refining that raw material -- whether at giant multinationals like Google, Facebook, and Amazon or smaller outfits developing techniques to identify shopping habits, job productivity, or wellbeing from our digital traces.

In Data for the People, I show that it's misguided to fight for a naive conception of privacy or anonymity; that would mean giving up many of the products and services you've come to depend on. Instead, you must take an active role in extracting value from your data, especially as more data comes from social networks and sensors.

To ensure your data is being used for you and not against you, you must demand a seat at the controls of the data refineries. Weigend argues that every refinery should provide you with a data "hygiene" dashboard -- including measures of expected risk and return on data shared. He outlines five tools that reward data creators with more decision-making power: the right to export data, the right to amend data, the right to blur data, the ability to "dial" personalization up and down, and the ability to see how changing inputs affects outputs. He then explores the trade-offs you will face in commerce, finance, work, health, education, and governance, showing how, with these controls in hand, you will be able to get as much out of the refineries as you give.

Data for the People puts the power of data into everyone's hands.

(To be published in 2016 by Basic Books.)


: why this book :

I am currently writing a book on the social life of data. It tells the story of how social data has revolutionized the way a billion people make purchases, find information, and think about their identity. We are the data we create. We are the online searches we do, the places we visit, the status messages we post.

This is not yet not another book about volume, velocity, virility, and whatnot of big data by someone who has not been in the trenches. This book is based on what I have seen before, during and after my years as Amazon's chief scientist.

My goal is to entice the reader to reflect on the underlying trade-offs. Many of the examples in the book come from my courses at Stanford and UC Berkeley. Consider the thought experiment about geolocation data: What would you do if you had access to the detailed history of all the places you’ve been? Would it change your behavior? What would your spouse, competitor, or enemy do with that information?

Historically, the technology to transport energy led to the industrial revolution and changed the way we produced things. Then, the technology to transport bits led to the information revolution and changed the way we produced knowledge. Now, the ease of data creation and global sharing has led to the social data revolution, changing the way we view ourselves, interact with each other, and make decisions.


: to share is human :

Sharing is central to humans. We eat together, learn together, play together. For the first time in history, everyone can share on a global scale. We share what we buy, where the best noodle shop is, and who we are excited about. This global playground enables a collective intelligence where people constantly improve upon existing information to generate relevant, current and increasingly useful knowledge. In addition, our thoughts and emotions are now digitized and broadcast to the world in real-time with nothing more than a few clicks.


: the need for attention :

While the amount of data a person creates doubles every 1.5 years, our attention spans do not. Companies and individuals thus compete more than ever for the attention of their audience.

Companies increase satisfaction and loyalty by helping customers to make better decisions. Furthermore, companies improve their products and services by leveraging the power of social data to align their objectives with their customers'. Successful companies start by defining the relevant problems, create a data strategy, and provide a platform where customers can freely give and get attention.


: from e-business to me-business... :

In the 2000s, companies shifted from e-business to me-business, from a company-centric to customer-centric perspective. Amazon clearly understood how to incentivize customers to create data beneficial to both parties.


: ... to we-business :

Now, successful companies are shifting from me-business to we-business, moving the focus from transactions to relationships. The emphasis is now on the community and the network, not on the individual or the company.


: the future of social data :

In the 1990s, search technologies helped us to find data. In the 2000s, social technologies helped us to share data. Now, mobile technologies are making it trivially easy to create and access data. The ultimate goal remains to help us negotiate the scarcity of attention.


featured interview

Featured Interview



latest video