- Google’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, said on Tuesday that data is more like sunlight than oil.
- It’s an upbeat twist on the phrase “data is the new oil,” which implies information is finite.
- Porat said Google was using data for positive developments, like diagnosing breast cancer.
- Her comments at the World Economic Forum came one day after Google was hit with a $US57 million fine by French authorities over its data-collection practices.
Google wants to popularise a more upbeat way of describing data: It’s more like sunlight than oil.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday morning, Google’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, said that “data is more like sunlight than oil,” adding, “It is like sunshine – we keep using it, and it keeps regenerating.”
It’s a twist on the well-known phrase “data is the new oil,” meaning the world’s most valuable resource is information rather than petroleum.
Like the oil barons who preceded them, Silicon Valley titans such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have risen quickly to profit from this new resource and even control its flow. And in another echo of history, regulators are eyeing the industry.
Porat isn’t the first to try to reframe the economics of data. Like others, she argued that the oil analogy implies that data is a finite resource.
And no doubt Google would prefer to avoid any direct comparison to oil barons.
Porat pointed to the way Google uses data for good, such as its researchers developing an algorithm to detect the spread of breast cancer.
Her comments came one day after Google faced its first major test under Europe’s new privacy rules, called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.
France’s data regulator fined the firm $US57 million on Monday, saying it didn’t properly explain what it does with people’s data or obtain the proper consent for targeting ads.
It’s the first signal that the new rules could prove to be a major financial headache for Silicon Valley’s tech giants.
Porat didn’t directly address the fine but did praise the GDPR. US regulators are considering implementing similar federal privacy rules.
“We support privacy laws in the US,” she said. “Trust is paramount.”
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