Online platforms that provide services at zero monetary cost benefit greatly from the data these transactions generate. This column proposes a new method to value these data, based on firm investments in organisational capital. The method also captures the social value of consumer data. Accurate estimates may guide investment and improve national accounts.
Many online platforms have been providing digital goods and services to consumers at zero monetary cost. But consumers, in fact, exchange their personal data for 'free' digital goods and services, and the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal demonstrates that there is no such thing as a free lunch in the digital economy.