A profile is "[a] set of descriptors that allows recognition or categorization of subjects."
A profile (also called a digital identity) is
|“||electronically stored data containing information about an individual’s online activities and behaviors, whether or not the name or other identifier of the individual is included in the profile, and whether or not the data includes information obtained from offline sources.||”|
|“||an easy-to-create webpage which contains personal information a user gives about themselves in order for people to better understand who they are. It can include all kinds of information, including some 'sensitive' information such as sexual orientation, religion, etc., and it is therefore important that users understand what other users can see.||”|
|“||define conforming subsets or combinations of base standards used to provide specific functions. Profiles identify the use of particular options available in the base standards, and provide a basis for the development of uniform, internationally recognized, conformance tests.||”|
A profile generally contains detailed personal information about individuals, including web searches, sites visited, clickstream, e-mail contacts and content, map searches, geographic location and movements, calendar appointments, mobile phone book, health records, educational records, energy usage, pictures and videos, social networks, locations visited, eating, reading, entertainment preferences, and purchasing history.
The ability to collect and store increasing amounts of personal data to develop these "digital identities" is accentuated by potential network effects. Firms with more predictive profiles and larger audiences will be able to offer increasingly better-targeted products and services that generate more advertising and consumer usage. This, in turn, enables the firms to collect more and better consumer personal data and develop even more predictive profiles. Those data and profiles are often so valuable for firms that they increasingly offer their products and services free of any monetary charges. Consumers gain access to a valuable service, and businesses gain valuable information.
However, new firms without access to detailed profiles of individual consumers, large audiences or subscriber pools may face competitive challenges as they try to monetize their innovations. They may face competitors offering an inferior service free of charge, and they may not have sufficient information about enough consumers to monetize their "audience" through advertising.