Calculating the Value of Personal Data: A Breakdown by State

Data is as good as gold these days, and Americans are creating a lot more of it than they probably realize. In 2020, for example, it is estimated that the average person will have created 1.7 megabytes of data every second of every day.

It’s also extremely valuable, and many companies are willing to spend billions to get their hands on it — after all, using such data to help brands target potential customers is the bread and butter of companies like Google and Meta. In fact, collecting and selling personal or consumer data has spawned an entire industry of data brokers worth hundreds of billions of dollars, including companies like Experian and Spokeo.

In short: your data is valuable. So, how much would the average person be willing to sell it for, if they could auction it, say?

We have a margin figure: The average American shopper would be willing to sell personal data for $1,452.25, according to research data from CouponBirds, a coupon and consumer information website.

The survey included responses from more than 3,500 consumers in the United States, and the CouponBirds team was also able to break down the data by state — they found that people in Colorado would hypothetically ask for their personal information the most, for more than $2,800. Conversely, people in Tennessee charge the least: $623.04.

From that dataset, here are the states where people would ask for their personal information the most and least, if it were hypothetically auctioned:

States with the highest values:

1. Colorado: $2,820.67 2. Nebraska: $2,784.75 3. Wyoming: $2,347.33 4. Minnesota: $2,202.55 5. Oklahoma: $2,016.00

States with the lowest values:

50. Tennessee: $623.04 49. Idaho: $742.30 48. Michigan: $801.17 47. Mississippi: $866.43 46. Utah: $919.75

Apparently, states in parts of the West and Midwest value their data, something that seems to fit with the entrenched sense of individualism in those parts of the country. But this raises another important question: How should Americans value their personal data? While few, if any, people actually have the choice of handing over their data for cash, it changes hands. Is $1,450 a reasonable price?

It depends, and may be impossible to say. Some people’s data is worth more than others. For example, personal data from men tends to be more valuable, according to a 2020 analysis by Mackeeper, and data from young adults (aged 18-24) is most valued.

There has also been some research into what people should pay to stop using online services such as search engines or social media networks, which basically act as data vacuum cleaners. It would cost more than $17,500 a year to incentivize the average person to stop using Google, and more than $500 a year to get them to deactivate their Facebook account.

For those who want to get off the wild ride of Big Data altogether, there isn’t much you can do. Data brokers operate in a largely unregulated space and fighting back would take a lot of effort. But the most important thing is to know that your data is there, that it has value and is probably more valuable than you think. And again, whoever has it can do almost anything with it, without notifying you.

“Within the law, anyone can do pretty much anything with your data,” Bennett Cyphers, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently told Fast Company. “And they don’t have to tell anyone about it.”

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