Preemptive Privacy Strike – Selling Your Own Data

How much is my data worth to this store?  Will they pay me?

How much is my data worth to this store? Will they pay me?

One of the axioms of today’s society is that in order to get better, more personalized service, we must give up some personal privacy and share your information with others.  Nowhere is that more prevalent in our electronic society.  To get personal recommendations on Amazon, they have to retain what I have bought, even though some of them are things I am not so proud of.  A mobile app that recommends sight-seeing stops must know what I like and where I am.  We are getting value for what we share.  The problem is that we don’t know what that value is and no one on the data collection side is really communicating that properly.

The value exchange is the weakest part in my three-legged stool metaphor.  We nebulously accept the value of free services, and sometimes the present benefit of Lowe’s telling me how much fertilizer I bought last year.  At any rate, we are just doing a swag on whether it is a good deal.  Haggling over the price of a used book at a garage sale takes longer than most service sign-up sessions.

Put yourself in control

There are some new start-ups and new apps that are trying to make it easier for you to value, and even sell in some cases, your personal data.  This emerging market highlights for me the fact that our services aren’t being transparent enough.  There are a few calculators out there that tell me how much my data is worth, but they seldome agree.  This Financial Times calculator tells me my data is worth a whopping $1 (rounded up).

So, what about these start-ups and new apps.  Are they putting you in control?  What value are you getting out of them.  Let’s look at a few.

Give me a Handshake!

Handshake seems to be getting some decent press in this space lately.  They are still in beta and you can go to their website to sign up for an invitation. On their home page they reference a Forrester research study stating that companies spend over $2 billion annually to buy personal data.  Yes, that is billion with a ‘b’.  If you don’t believe there is money in the data broker business, go back on this blog and read my article on the Data Dealer game.

While Handshake is reported as a way to negotiate a price for your personal data, it looks like it is more about connecting you to companies who want your opinions and data.  You fill out your profile, companies search for people like you based on that profile and decide if they want more information from you.  You get an offer through Handshake from the company and you can accept or negotiate further.  I find this latter possibility a bit spurious, to be honest.  If I say not to what the company is willing to pay me, why would they increase their offer?  What negotiating leverage do I have?  Aside from that, it looks like a new way to skin the focus group and survey business.

What I would like this service to be is a place to securely store all my personal data and information and broker my data through it.  Handshake is not that.  I think it is an interesting service, though.

Transparency is really the best policy

Another new startup in this space who has really good things to say is Enliken.  They are building what they call ‘privacy friendly data products.’  Enliken allows a value exchange to be made, though it isn’t in the form of money.  It is in the form of special perks from online retailers through a plug-in.  I wonder if consumers will embrace something like this as it seems alittle clunky to me, but I wish them success.  What really impressed me was their most recent blog post about what they feel consumers want – transparency.

… individuals simply want to know what data is being gathered, what it’s being used for … how long it’s going to be kept for.

What they are talking about here is notice.  And then enabling a form of control.  The problem with many privacy intrusions is that there isn’t any transparency.  Users don’t know what is really going on, and typically when they don’t and find out about it later, it is always an issue.  An earlier quote in the post makes a comment that I think is interesting:

When consumers say “privacy” they don’t mean isolation, they mean control.

I agree with the quote in its entirety as I think we have moved past the point where we can be truly private unless you are somehow off the grid.  The problem is one of individual user preference, or what Enliken calls control.  Give users the ability to control what they feel is private and share what they don’t.  Put them in the driver’s seat and allow them to make an informed decision.

For some brands there is so much built-in trust they have, they could actually ask for more data from their fans and consumers.  I caution you if you are at one of those brands.  With great power comes great responsibility.  Or, use your powers for good and not evil.  It took you a while to gain that trust, but it can be lost ever so quickly.

“Privacy is the value of the 21st Century and it’s not outdated”

Summing it all up is that quote.  Our data is our value moving forward.  Information is the new coin of the realm.  We as consumers should get the full benefit of our information.  So we should know where it goes and what it does when it gets there.  The quote is from Malte Spitz, a politician in Germany, who recently talked at TED about what personal information was being collected by his mobile phone provider.  I will end with an embed of his TED talk and let you ponder this new world.

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