Run the World (Data)

 In Data, Financial Data, Machine Learning, Portability

Over the course of the last decade, there’s no denying that mobile apps have become integral parts of peoples’ routines and lifestyles. In 2022, over 50% of the world’s population had a smartphone, and the average person has around 40 different apps downloaded to their devices (although people generally use only 9 apps on a daily basis). We use these apps to do everything from communicating and socializing, to shopping, to getting where we want or need to go, to accessing and reading information, to managing our finances, and keeping track of our health.

All apps exist for a specific purpose that hopefully resonates with users. Whatever that outward purpose is – whether it’s to entertain, to inform, to help organize or manage an aspect of life, or to provide easier access to necessities – all apps are also created to generate popularity and make money. In this post we’ll briefly look at the role data plays in the life and wellness of apps and companies and how users play an important role within an app’s purposes and goals.

What’s the Big Deal About Data?

In order for an app to 1) be developed and 2) stay relevant, it must have access to data that helps it know what’s happening with its users. How does an app do that? By accessing and collecting information about users in real time. Companies have been gathering this information (aka data) for a long time, but only recently has it become required for them to explicitly state what information they’re tracking about its users. One of the main tenets of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect in 2020 but continues to be regularly updated, is the “right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared.” What that means is, if an app or company is tracking anything about its users (and they are), they have to let the users know. (Many companies across related sectors have embraced the tenets of CCPA, further expanding them to create a “bill of rights” for consumers. For reference, you can check out the Digital Commerce Alliance’s data principles here ).

Data is factual information that is used as the basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation. Every time a person purchases something, publishes something, or simply goes online through a web browser or an app, they are creating personal data about themselves. What information is created and being tracked, you may wonder? Let’s look at the social app Twitter as an example:

In 2022, Twitter had over 450 million active users, and the app/website is collecting data on every single one of them. Thanks to CCPA, we now know exactly what data Twitter is accessing and using – 1) purchases made via Twitter or connected apps as well as the user’s payment information, 2) a person’s location when using the app, 3) their contact info and all content posted, 4) browsing and search histories, and more. On an individual level, Twitter uses that data to do things like provide targeted ads and give account suggestions to each user, as well as determine how to organize that user’s feed. On a larger level, Twitter uses the compilation of these data sets to make changes to their platform’s infrastructure so it’s (hopefully) more user-friendly or up to date.

With the advance of AI and machine-learning, applications are able to track even more specific information about its users than what’s mentioned in the above paragraph. It’s not unreasonable to assume that every movement of the cursor on a webpage, every scroll up or scroll down movement on a mobile device, is being registered and analyzed by machines. This counts as data too.

Twitter isn’t an outlier in the kind or amount of data it collects. Out of the 9 apps the average person uses on a daily basis on their mobile devices, chances are they’re all collecting similar types of data for similar reasons. Your social media apps, your shopping platforms, your mobile banking – they all want information about you so that they can remain relevant and appealing. The data generated through users’ online presence fuels the success, innovation, and the future of essentially all apps and companies. So especially in a market economy, we can see how data truly does drive our world.

Why Should You Care About Data?

It’s common to think of data as a whole: i.e. what insights do entire data sets and compilations provide for these companies and organizations? Yet as a user, it’s important to remember that those data sets are only possible because of many participating individuals, like you! Each person’s data involved in a larger data set is a valuable component in making data collection actually useful for companies. Data is critically important for them, but data can also be important and meaningful to you, the user.

The CCPA not only made it mandatory for companies to share what data they’re collecting and for what purposes; it also gives users the right to access their data being collected and share it with whoever else they want to. This is the basic premise of data portability, and you can read more about it in previous blog posts here. CCPA makes it possible for users to take the data being collected by any of the apps they use and share it with another entity, for whatever reason they want. Even though you’re not the one collecting it, since it’s information about you, you’re technically the owner of it. According to CCPA, you have the right to access your data in an understandable way, you can correct it or delete it, or you can limit the use of it, all without being penalized or disadvantaged as a result.

This is good news for pretty much everyone, because being able to port financial data opens up a lot of unique and innovative opportunities. In the next two posts we’ll look more specifically at those opportunities.

Real data with real value is being collected everywhere you go and whatever you do – why not take advantage of it?


Stay tuned for the next two posts in this series, where we’ll look further into the specific purposes of collecting financial data and how both users and companies alike can benefit from real-time, permissioned data.

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