Imagine going to a job every month, for years of your life, and never being paid. Then, imagine creating a valuable product, which is then taken from you and monetized without your consent – and never seeing a dime.
This happens to Americans every day, insidiously, online, said Robert Grant, Chairman and CEO of Crown Sterling Limited, a data sovereignty company. The answer may lie in blockchain technology.
In his interview with Dara Albright on her DWealthMuse podcast, Robert states that “The most valuable asset today is not gold or platinum. It’s not even water. It’s actually data.” He mentions being astounded by a news article about two or three years ago, in which data had become the most valuable asset on the planet, surpassing oil, gold and all the other precious metals. “That is a tremendous shift.”
Value has historically been determined by the scarcity of the commodity. So how is it that data can surpass the precious metals in value when it differs from other resources by its ability to be created every day making it NOT limited by scarcity?
“It’s not really that data is infinite which contributes to it being the most valuable thing, it’s the control of that data and what can be done with it that makes it incredibly valuable,” he said. “I think that is the reality that everyone is starting to wake up to. We are in a world that is incredibly unprecedented right now on the amount of control that is being exacted on the general populace, and how data is being manipulated to serve an end and it’s all about the money.”
Large masses of people are creating value not through their labors, but through their behaviors for the first time in history. Grant says that if each person was compensated for creating data and content, it could become the basis for a universal basic income system.
People should control and own the things they create, said Grant, which is the underlying philosophy behind data sovereignty.
People give away control of their data to large technology companies with very little thought through their social media and online behaviors and habits whether or not they realize their data is being collected in the first place.
“Big tech has figured out how to monetize all of this data,” said Grant. In our digital lives, we are living on a digital plantation and creating data as tenant farmers. The landlords become the big technocrats collecting our valuable creations.
Tenant farmers usually split the surplus value of their crops—the fruits of their labor—with their landlords. Today’s internet, mobile device and social media users do not currently have the ability to split the value with the technology companies who collect the data.
Big technology companies share nothing with their users—if anything, they offer users a negative value.
“It’s unprecedented that original producers are getting no value, but they’re actually getting negative value from the sale of their data,” said Grant. Instead, they receive “all kinds of targeted advertising. It’s incredibly invasive. They know your geolocation, they know everything about you, and all that data is being sold to the highest bidders.”
Data is also used politically. Big technology uses people’s data against them by censoring content and creating bubbles of confirmation bias while at the same time lobbying Congress and other policymakers to look the other way.
Thus, social media companies can direct discourse and narrative in their favor and expunge those who might speak out against them.
“There has to be a way to protect data, and the way to do it is through the laws that protect ownership, not privacy,” said Grant. “Ownership is a basic human right…(and) data ownership is simply an extension of property ownership. We believe that data is the intangible personal property of the original producer, therefore it’s protected by the U.S. Constitution in Articles 4 and 5, by the Bill of Rights and by the U.N. and European charters on human rights.”
Blockchain technology has a role to play in both monetizing data and protecting democracy, said Grant. Because decision-making can be decentralized across a blockchain, it can be used to put more choice into individual hands instead of the hands of representatives. Blockchain would allow more issues, even on a national or global scale, to be decided through direct referendum rather than legislation and representation.
Blockchain could also help individuals take control of their own data. Grant’s company, Crown Sterling, allows users to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that represent their data. The data can then be monetized on an exchange or stored and protected in a crypto wallet.
“One day, the value of that data is going to rapidly double,” said Grant. “If Facebookk wrote a check for the revenue they capture off of the sale of their data each year, they would have to write everyone a check for $600. Do we all know that it is really costing us $50 a month to be on Facebook?
“In general, it’s time for human beings to take back their sovereign individual rights.”