The Impact of the Lack of Data Ownership in Northern Ontario
Updated: Nov 27, 2022
The province of Ontario is one of the world's most data-centric regions. Despite its prominence in Canada, Ontario does not know what its own release of information is worth or who has access to it. And that lack of understanding about their own value means that Ontarians often find themselves surrendering their data for pennies at the expense of private tech companies.
In the North, it's the same problem. Northern Ontarians don't know what their data is worth in capitalization and they don't know who owns their data, either. Both are critical questions to ask and to understand if you want to get value for your data. So why is the lack of data ownership so significant in the north? Because Ontarians have no voice in the monetary value of their information. We have no say in what our data is worth to others or what we can get from it. Northern Ontarians aren't able to benefit from the potential of their data.
This isn't just a problem for northern Ontario: it's also a phenomenon in other parts of Canada and around the world, as well. In fact, if you ask people who own their data they'll likely tell you that they're not aware of how much economic value they can create by owning and controlling it themselves. Without control over our data, Ontarians are vulnerable to manipulation that gives rise to unfair market practices.
We should all have a say in what we choose to share with others. We should own and manage our own data and decide how it's used. But without knowing what our data is worth, we cannot possibly get the value that we deserve out of it. This inability to get fair value for your information is not just a problem for you and me - it's also a problem for our communities, towns, cities, and businesses. It's a problem for the entire province and country because it harms the prosperity of all regions. The north is actually one of the best examples of this problem. Why? It's a sector that has so much to give but doesn't have the power to decide how people get the value of their data. Northern Ontarians and Canadians should be able to monetize our data however we want and for whatever purposes. We should also be able to reap the benefits of this economic activity. The idea that tech companies are profiting from our data is no longer a question or a problem: it's established fact. What we, as northerners and Canadians, need to do is focus on how we can make the most out of it by owning our own data and making sure that it accrues the greatest benefit for us - not them.
When Ontario doesn't know what its information is worth, a few private companies step in to capitalize on that data without knowing how to manage it, who owns it or what value there is in sharing it. Because tech companies are given so much value for just having your data and don't often have to pay for it, these corporations also don't know how to do a good job managing your information. They don't know if it's accurate. They don't know if it's safe. And because customers put so much trust in these companies and give away their data for free, the tech companies can manipulate your information in ways you might never expect (think Cambridge Analytica) and make billions of dollars while doing it.
If we want to ensure fairness and equality online, we need to encourage technology leaders to share their monetary value with their users - to give them a piece of the pie instead of taking all the profits themselves. This is the only way we will ensure that our data is managed in a fair and equitable way. We shouldn't allow private companies to decide what value consumers get out of their information without sharing that value with them.
Furthermore, governments, including the province of Ontario, shouldn't be in the business of deciding how your data is managed. So long as technology leaders are making their money from users' data and not from fair market practices, governments should not be in a position to tell tech companies how they need to manage and protect user data. And when tech companies are extracting so much value from our data without adequately compensating us for it, there's just no getting around the fact that governments should have a say in how they manage it.
At the end of the day, when it comes to your data, it's important that you have a say. Whether it's your own data or someone else's, you should be able to keep control of it and decide how to manage it in a way that benefits you. But when we don't know what our data is worth and can't get fair monetary value for it, we lose out on the opportunity to get that fair value.
Ontarians are making such an effort to share their data so freely with tech companies. They're doing it because they don't know what else to do. If we want to start making changes and protecting our privacy, we need to get the attention of all Ontarians and tell them what their data is worth. We need to remind them how important it is for them to be able to control who has access to it and how that data is used. We need to encourage them to share their data with tech companies in a fair way - one that gives them a piece of the pie.
Most of all, we need to remind them that they own their information, and not just the few who profit from it.