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"How much our personal data is worth? Watch Dogs tells you!" by Laure Kaltenbach and Olivier Le Guay on The Huffington Post

What if a worldwide realization about our personal data value, and particularly the cultural one, comes from the success of the video game Watch Dogs? Through a small app called, his publisher Ubisoft enables everyone to know the value of his Facebook profile.

Article previously published in french on the

4 million in 7 days! This is the sales figure of Watch Dogs, published by Ubisoft. Behind the predictable success for this global blockbuster, the publisher is aiming at 10 million sales within the coming weeks. First, we must pay tribute to the technic and artistic performance of a game that disrupts all what have been already done about interactivity between the gamer and his environment. To those who were wondering why personal data are above all a cultural and ethical topic, the answer of the creators of the video game is clear: theirs interactions can alter individual and even shared destinies.

Our personal data is a weapon. The principle of Watch Dogs is simple: the smartphone stands in for the gun and the control of personal data becomes a weapon. The specialist can always criticize some aspects of the storyline (a revenge along with a rebellion against a centralized data-system), but not the fact that it explores that far the data contextualization! What is fascinating besides the visual quality and the realism of the situations at the heart of a contemporary hyperconnected Chicago, it is to have the personal data that the hero exploits become elements of scenario and unexpected turns, in short to stimulate your imagination.

Because I’m worth it. Ubisoft within his intense worldwide marketing campaign has gone further in the awareness about the – real – interest of our personal data, through a practical and easy-to-use app.  You only have to click on and on your Facebook profile to learn what any GAFA has ever dared tell you, by asserting that they know everything about us: the result is radical and goes much more beyond a restrictive definition of our personal data and does not limit itself to our health or our banking data. ‘They know’: who we are (posted pictures), who cares about us (relatives), what appeals to us (tastes, relationships …), when we are vulnerable, where to find us, all of our secrets, and finally what we are worth, our profile is estimate in thousands of dollars !

Real life is not so far. To those who boil down personal data – particularly cultural one – to technical issues, Watch Dogs proves on the contrary and make us more aware about the fact that it defines us and reflects our personality, our tastes, our yearnings, our preoccupations, our private life, in short our digital DNA. It is not surprising that the divorce is consummated between citizens and those like companies or States who use our personal data1.  But there is a huge paradox: fear and doubts about exploitation are real whereas the volume of track and cultural data leaved behind keeps on increasing.

It is time to open the true debate on the society we want for tomorrow. We support the call of Pierre Paperon who in a recent platform in Le Monde (30th May, 2014) appealed to the necessity of an ‘ethical data’ to define its properties and its uses. Who is controlling who? The impact of the Big Data on the daily routine enables for a long time numerous stakeholders to localize us into space, to predict our expectations, in short to interact in real time with you. For better, with the smart city managing the available parking spaces for Velib’ bicycles, or the traffic jams… or for worse, with the commercial harassment, indefinite reuses of personal words or pictures… The advance that occurred few days ago due to the European justice about the right to oblivion which Google must offer to the Internet users – even if it does not fix all the problems (who decides, who approves…) is a step in the awareness. Now we should go further.

This concerns all of us. The balance between the valuation and the protection of the individual liberties forms a key stake of the development of the data economy. With wishes to engage an in-depth reflection about cultural data, the Forum d’Avignon @Paris invites you to join us at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) on September 19th 2014, with the aim to put the personal cultural data, in other words the digital identity, at the heart of the international institutions agendas: the European ones with the talk on the Regulation on the protection of personal data[1], the UN’s one for the 10 year-anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on diversity, under the form of an “Universal declaration on digital identity and on the internet user and of the creator’ rights” based on the model of the Universal declaration on human genome ratified by the UNESCO the 11th of November 1997, which enabled the genetic identity to be sanctuarized.

It is our turn to play together for the digital identity – the cultural one of course! Watch Dogs invites us to do it.

[1]To replace the directive on the data protection (direct application in the 28 member states without national transposition text on the contrary of the directive)

By Laure Kaltenbach, Managing director of the Forum d’Avignon and Olivier Le Guay, Editorial manager of the Forum d’Avignon.