In less than two decades, the value of personal data has increased by 1,800%

It’s virtually impossible to avoid giving away at least some of your personal data in 2021. Every time you visit a website, use social media, accept Ts&Cs, sign up to a form or approve cookies, your data is collected – and companies are willing to pay enormous amounts of money to own it.

The world currently generates so much data that by 2025, we could produce 463 exabytes of data a day. One exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes, or roughly 250m DVDs. That means in just four years, we’ll be producing enough data to fill one hundred and sixteen billion DVDs every single day.

Among this tidal wave of information, your name, location, age, gender, employment status, income and hundreds of other random details about you are among the most valuable commodities in the digital economy.

Who wants it and why?

What is personal data? It’s a broad umbrella term that includes everything from personal, banking and health information to hobbies, viewing history, search engine queries and even the exact movement of your mouse when shopping online. This information is like gold to companies looking to understand how you behave online to create tailored experiences and serve relevant ads.

All data, all the time

From your morning exercise and lunch order to your late-night shopping sessions, everything you do online or share with connected devices generates valuable information. In addition to companies buying and using it to create targeted ads, developers buy it to train their AI and academics use it to study our behaviour – the applications are endless.




Awareness of the value of this data is growing. In 2018, 47% of people in the UK said they were concerned about how companies use their personal data, compared to just 24% in 2020.

And although 36% of Britons admit that for financial compensation, they’d be willing to share all their data with companies, the truth is that in exchange for the ‘free’ use of Google, Facebook, Maps etc, we’re the ones paying – just with our data instead of money.

What is personal data worth to companies?

Google ad revenue is a good indicator of the value of personal data. Each user-generated around £1.45 worth of ad revenue for Google back in 2001. Just under two decades later, this has increased to £26 per user – a staggering 1,800% increase.

Currently, there is no globally accepted formula to identify the value of our personal information. Studies show that the value depends on the demographic. For example:

  • Men’s data is worth more than women’s: At £18 million vs £17 million, studies show companies are willing to spend more to acquire men’s data than
  • Data from a younger demographic is the most valuable: At £10 million versus £6 million, companies are willing to pay way more for data from 18–24-year-olds than 25–34-year-olds.
  • Cost of data for those in the Middle East outstrips the rest: Companies are willing to pay more for data from Middle Eastern, Black and White demographics than any other ethnicity, at £0.45, £0,42 and £0,14 per person respectively.

Which apps collect the most data about you?

These apps top the list when it comes to data collection, with most knowing everything from your purchases, location and contact info to your browsing history, financial information and searches. Here’s how much of your data is shared.

  • Facebook – 86%
  • Instagram – 86%
  • Klarna – 64%
  • Uber – 57%
  • eBay – 50%

When it comes to sharing your data with third parties, the biggest offenders are:

  • Instagram – 79%
  • Facebook – 57%
  • LinkedIn – 50%
  • Uber Eats – 50%
  • Trainline – 43%

Lost personal data costs businesses millions

When businesses experience a data breach, customer PII (personally identifiable information) records are compromised most often, in about 80% of breaches. This information is also most expensive, costing businesses around £109 per stolen record. In the UK, the average cost of a data breach is above the global standard, costing companies an average of £2.8 million.

Please note: All costs have been converted into £