Living in the real world and the virtual one may be more than my simple mind can handle. My fear gets worse when I realize the virtual world is split in two — between the worldwide web and the dark web. Add to that bifurcation, my need to remember there are two kinds of money – the kind traded in the virtual world as crypto money and the kind I feel in my hands after I’ve made a bank withdrawal. Harder to imagine are the cross over points where the two kinds of currency meet — on the stock market and in some real world banks, for example.
We all know social media and other retailers have been monetizing our personal information for years, selling it to internet harvesters like Cambridge Analytica, that, in turn, sell the data to clients who bombards us with commercial and political ads. Contributing to the confusion is a new platform. Gregory Barber writes about it in Wired magazine. (“Taking Back My Data,” Jan. 2019, pg. 17.) Tim Berners-Lee, originator of the world-wide web, has created Solid, a platform that allows individuals to sell their data and bypass the middlemen. If Facebook can monetize my personal information, the reasoning goes, then I should be able to monetize it, also.
On the surface, it sounds like an intriguing idea. But I see a fly in the ointment. If the payment takes the form of virtual money, how do I report my profits to the IRS? Barber already concedes a person would have to keep “meticulous records of every deal you strike.” (Ibid, pg. 17.)
Some people may be comfortable with keeping a double ledger, real and virtual, but not me. I have trouble making sense of Medicare receipts. Not to worry, says Barber. Wibson can organize my virtual information. With them, my data is private until I wish to sell it. When I do, they give an accounting of the sale.
That last bit of information is comforting and I do agree that cutting out the middleman seems just. We could all stop fighting Facebook, Twitter and Google about our right to privacy, for one thing. But as a purveyor of my novels, I know being my own broker is daunting. Is my personal information any more likely to hit the best seller list than my books? Barber tried it and his experience wasn’t encouraging. By last report, he’s earned 0.3 cents in crypto money and is closing his account.