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While millions of consumers carry on unaware, powerful companies are racing to gain more knowledge and data than anyone, including any government, has ever had. The goal is to understand consumer behavior and desires, from mundane matters to our most private and intimate affairs. This massive trove of data represents an immense prize for these companies. In economic terms, it is one of the most valuable assets on the planet.In All You Can Pay, Anna Bernasek and D.T. Mongan show how companies use what they know about you to determine how much you are willing to pay for certain products and services. Colleges calculate the price you pay based on the information revealed in the application almost all parents submit for federal aid. Hotels, sports events and health products and services are also using this strategy. The price of everything online-from airline tickets to toilet paper-now fluctuates from moment to moment. Through a toxic combination of price discrimination and cutting-edge technology, sellers can instantly change the price they charge an individual based on their calculations of demand and supply at that point in time. Online stores use your zip code to charge you a different price from someone in another zip code.Bernasek and Mongan offer a dire warning and demonstrate how big data threatens the very icon of the American way: the free market. The ability to understand consumers on a granular level, in real time, and simultaneously to customize the price each person is offered, shifts the balance of power away from the consumer so dramatically that the freedom of markets is at risk. The trend is alarming and, if left unchecked, the destination is clear. Yet consumers and companies can still choose a different path, and in this chilling and illuminating book, Bernasek and Mongan show us how.
You don t care who can access your data because you have nothing to hide. But what if corporations were using that data to control your decisions? As millions of consumers carry on unaware, powerful corporations race to collect more and more data about our behaviors, needs, and desires. This massive trove of data represents one of the most valuable assets on the planet. In "All You Can Pay," Anna Bernasek and D. T. Mongan show how companies use what they know about you to determine how much you are willing to pay for everything you buy. From college tuition to plane tickets to groceries to medicine, companies already set varying prices based on intimate knowledge of individual wants and purchasing power. As the consumer age fades into history, rapidly changing prices and complex offers tailored to each individual are spreading like a fog over the free market. Data giants know everything about us before we enter stores or open our browsers. We may think that the Internet lets us find the best deals, but the extensive information companies have about us means that the price we see tends toward the maximum they know we can pay. In a momentous shift, the economics of information will turn our economy on its head. Fair bargaining is over."
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Anna Bernasek, D. T. Mongan
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"A well-written, vivid, and harrowing look at the microcosm of surveillance. A must read for all concerned citizens." --Robert Scheer, author of They Know Everything About You and The Great American Stickup "There have been plenty of warnings about corporations profiting from data and compromising privacy, but this straightforward analysis never succumbs to alarmism while letting the facts speak for themselves. [The authors] build a case that will hit home with the personal finances of any reader who has ever done anything online. [They] understand how to write about specialized topics for a general readership, and they deliver their most frightening news in the most understated, straightforward manner... Hope lies in what the authors call 'Data Environmentalism,' raising the consciousness about this threat the way Silent Spring sparked the environmental movement. Well informed and useful." -- Kirkus Reviews "Anna Bernasek and D.T. Mongan have produced a model of lucidity--and urgency--on a topic that needs to be 'top-of-mind' for all of us. Everybody--in the true meaning of that word--ought to read this book. Now. " --Tom Peters, international bestselling author of In Search of Excellence " All You Can Pay is a truly devastating critique of today's information-based, predatory capitalism that everyone must read. Indeed, it's arguably the Das Kapital of the 21st Century." --Laurence Kotlikoff, economist and bestselling author of The Coming Generational Storm