Consumer Data: Who Owns It?

by Mario Rizzo

Richard Thaler is one of those academics with an excess of nervous energy. He is constantly on the look-out for ways that he and his soft-paternalist sympathizers can tinker around improving our welfare, suitably defined.

The latest scheme is to force companies who have gathered data about product usage from particular individuals to share it with those individuals so that they can use it to improve their future purchases. Thus your cell phone company will reveal to you in convenient form everything it “knows” about “how much you use services like texting, social media, music streaming and sending photos.” (This, of course, is a kind of anthropomorphism because no human mind knows this stuff – it is all computerized!) Then you can use this information, with the help of other websites, to get your optimal phone plan.

Thaler argues, “After all, it is our data.” Continue reading