There's a gold rush underway. We're the gold. What started as panning for the little flakes of data we leave all over the internet became mining. In its latest form it feels like industrial scale opencast extraction as everything we do online is scooped up and analysed somewhere.

If you've ever doubted that you and your information are the product online, Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp should rid you of that notion entirely. Facebook doesn't appear to be buying WhatsApp for technology reasons. The WhatsApp platform duplicates functionality Facebook already has in its instant messenger product. Facebook seems to be buying WhatsApp for its users and the information they've given to that service over the years.

We know that when we provide our data to services online it will be used by the company to generate profiles and develop targeted advertising. It's the price we pay for things are ostensibly 'free'. We need to be aware of that and question how we feel about the concentration of lots of our information in only a handful of places. The big platforms have the potential to be incredibly granular in their analysis of our lives and lifestyles. If you're comfortable with that, it's fine. If you've misgivings, it's time to look at the services you use and the information you give to them. If you are concerned, there's lots of advice in guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office.

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