Our Personal Data – Shouldn’t we be selling it?

In class we’ve talked a lot about the privacy issues surrounding social media applications and what individuals can do to protect their personal information. However, we haven’t discussed the billions of dollars these companies generate by selling our personal data. Stepping away from privacy issues for a moment, let’s look at a few companies that currently sell our personal data to third party vendor’s. An additional idea to explore is that once we are compromising our privacy to a certain extent, why don’t we sell that personal data ourselves?

1) In the social media industry, Facebook claims not to sell any personal data (see here) yet their vague terms of service agreement has led many to believe they are indeed selling the data for profit in large packages separated by demo / geographics (see here). Twitter’s privacy policy states explicitly they can sell users data to “trusted third parties” (see here) and last year disclosed 47.5 million of revenue from selling personal data (see here). The same goes for companies like Google, Linkedin, etc.

2) Consumer finance app’s and large banks are notorious for selling purchasing behavior information through a company called Yodlee.com. In fact, if you’ve banked online your data has probably been transmitted to Yodlee without you even knowing it. More than 200 financial institutions (including Citibank and Bank of America) use its services touching 26 million consumers. They are collectively generating billions of dollar’s from selling information related to our credit card purchases (see here).

So now that we know these corporations are mining and monetizing our personal data, the questions begs why aren’t we selling it ourselves? After all we created the data, shouldnt we be the recipient of it’s value to other’s? Take a look at a startup based in NY called Datacoup.com that created a platform to do just that. Datacoup connects to all your online social data and offline spending data, and then bundles the data into a package and finds interested buyers through Yodlees API.

I believe this is the future of the personal data monetization industry.

Would you sell your data? Lets discuss!

-David W

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