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Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech

Birch, K; Cochrane, DT; Ward, C; (2021) Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech. Big Data and Society , 8 (1) 10.1177/20539517211017308. Green open access

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Abstract

Digital personal data is increasingly framed as the basis of contemporary economies, representing an important new asset class. Control over these data assets seems to explain the emergence and dominance of so-called “Big Tech” firms, consisting of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google/Alphabet, and Facebook. These US-based firms are some of the largest in the world by market capitalization, a position that they retain despite growing policy and public condemnation—or “techlash”—of their market power based on their monopolistic control of personal data. We analyse the transformation of personal data into an asset in order to explore how personal data is accounted for, governed, and valued by Big Tech firms and other political-economic actors (e.g., investors). However, our findings show that Big Tech firms turn “users” and “user engagement” into assets through the performative measurement, governance, and valuation of user metrics (e.g., user numbers, user engagement), rather than extending ownership and control rights over personal data per se. We conceptualize this strategy as a form of “techcraft” to center attention on the means and mechanisms that Big Tech firms deploy to make users and user data measurable and legible as future revenue streams.

Type: Article
Title: Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/20539517211017308
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517211017308
Language: English
Additional information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage)
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Planning
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10128597
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