As the age-old saying goes, knowledge is power.
The continued relevance of this morsel of wisdom seems to underpin at least part of the growing unease at the amount of data that corporate - and especially internet - giants hold about us, their users. Is it healthy, many wonder, for so much personal data to be held by so few organisations?
Should we mind that closed corporations have more information than democratically elected governments?
In order to make sense of this, the old saying needs updating.
If knowledge really were power then anyone with an internet connection and access to Wikipedia would be an oligarch or millionaire. Possessing information is not enough. It’s what you do with it that counts. In short, data is useful to the extent that it can be acted upon. The anxiety about the power some corporations could potentially wield is therefore based not merely on the fact that they have a lot of data, but how they use it.