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How much is your data worth?

20 min read

A calculation has revealed the amount of money that social networks earn from our screen time - per minute, day, month, and year.

In just a few years, social media platforms have radically changed lives. They have become a means of communication, a news channel, a TV, a diary, a dating site, and a virtual meeting place.

  • Two-thirds of Germans use one or more of the offerings from the big players (Google, Meta, Twitter, and TikTok) every day.

Even though these internet giants offer their social media services free of charge, they generate annual sales worth billions of dollars. For instance, in 2021, Meta (formerly Facebook) reported revenue of $118 billion, while TikTok generated over $58 billion in revenue during the same period. Similarly, Twitter's revenue for the year was approximately $5 billion.

How they attain these figures is no longer a secret. The platforms finance themselves predominantly through the sale of target group-specific advertising placements and the commercial exploitation of their users' data. Some social networks also sell data records directly to third parties. The platforms grant themselves the right to do so in their terms of use.

  • The billions in sales already make it clear how valuable our personal data is.

Consumers are part of a modern barter system. An exchange of comprehensive, digital tracking for the free use of the platforms.

Private data as a goldmine: Balance sheets provide information about sales per user

Personal data has become the new gold, making the social media and networking boom the gold rush of the 21st century. This has led to a critical question - what is the value of our data? How much do companies such as Meta, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat earn from their users for every minute spent on their platforms? The answers to these questions can be found deep within these companies' quarterly reports and balance sheets, where Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is disclosed. Our team of data analysts at heyData have scrutinized these reports and calculated the ARPU based on other data, such as average screen time. We have conducted a small calculation experiment that demonstrates how much social media and networks earn from our data, thus answering the question:

What is our data worth?

Umsätze der Social Media-Plattformen pro Nutzer

Quelle: heyData Einbetten Grafik herunterladen Erstellt mit Datawrapper

This is what our data is worth

  • Nach einem Jahr Tracking und bei durchschnittlicher Bildschirmzeit vermarkten die Plattformen von Meta die gewonnenen, personenbezogenen Daten eines Users für etwa 200 Euro.
  • Mit jeder Minute, die ein Nutzer auf Facebook oder Instagram verbringt, verdienen die Plattformen etwa zwei Cent.
  • Twitter, TikTok und Snapchat müssen Nutzer mindestens zwei Minuten auf der Plattformhalten, um einen Cent zu verdienen. Youtube benötigt sogar fünf Minuten Bildschirmzeit, um einen Cent umzusetzen.
  • Nutzer, die länger als 33 Minuten am Tag auf Facebook oder länger als 29 Minuten am Tag auf Instagram verweilen, generieren höhere Umsätze für Meta. Aus diesem Grund versuchen die sozialen Netzwerke ihre Nutzer so lange wie möglich auf der Plattform zu halten. Meta verdient etwa zwei Cent pro Minute Bildschirmzeit seiner Nutzer.
  • Meta hat die Vermarktung personenbezogener Daten perfektioniert, wie insbesondere der Vergleich der Jahresumsätze zeigt. Während Facebook und Instagram rund 200 Euro pro Nutzer im Jahr generieren, erzielt TikTok aktuell lediglich knapp 66 Euro, Twitter etwa 54 Euro und Youtube nur knapp 29 Euro pro Jahr und Nutzer.


  • Average daily usage of platforms in minutes: eMarketer (data from 2017-2022), Digital 2022: Global Overview Report
  • Average Revenue per User (ARPU): Facebook: Meta Earnings Presentation Q2 2022), Instagram: Own calculations based on Insider Intelligence, Datareportal "Instagram Statistics and Trends", TikTok: Insider Intelligence/ eMarketer, Twitter: Insider Intelligence/ eMarketer, YouTube: Own calculation based on seekingalpha, alphabet Q2/2022 quarterly report, Insider Intelligence and Digital 2022: Global Overview Report, Snapchat: Snap Inc. Q4/2021 quarterly report.

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How much is your data worth?

A calculation has revealed the amount of money that social networks earn from our screen time - per minute, day, month, and year.

Learn more