Selling Privacy

Guest Post by Shakirah Dawud

I read an article in AdAge a couple of weeks ago that described the way the customer data market is set to change, due to new “personal data vault and brokerage” companies like

In pursuit of something called (by the author) a “Federated Identity” for all Internet users, these online services allow users to control the data they share with businesses about their spending and surfing habits without piling on usernames and passwords.

Sounds like exactly what we all need so far: less fear of sharing the wrong thing with the wrong entity or leaving a data trail behind when you think you’re anonymous.

But takes their service a step further: not only can you control your data, you can sell it.

This begged the question: what data sells at what price, and to whom? According to the article, you “would decide what data to share, with whom, and in exchange for what.”

But when I visited, that detail is explained this way:

For example, an online travel company could request access to your Next Vacation gem. If you grant access, the travel company might show you tour packages or destination ideas that match the data in your gem.

As compensation for giving the company permission to get to know you better, it might offer you a valuable discount on bookings or even pay you for your time.

Where in this transaction have the tables been turned, and power given to you, the data-owner?

The company has chosen which part of your information they want, and you don’t get to choose what you get in exchange.

That means you’re buying, and the company is selling.

The only thing differentiating this transaction from your run-of-the-mill newsletter or discount subscription? The illusion that you have better control over your information than you did if you handed over your email address.

And some companies could be more eager to get access to your “gems” because they get to pick the parts about you they’re interested in seeing, by dangling a reward in front of you that would otherwise be sent to your inbox. You’ll only give them access if you’re interested in their offer, so they know at the outset how primed you are to buy.

Because I don’t wear a tinfoil hat (at least, not while I’m here with Shonali), here: have a a cookie and let’s travel back into an alternate universe – the one we happen to live in.

Currently, all that precious data is being siphoned, organized, charted, and stored … free of charge to anyone you please (and some you don’t). Me? I’m not clicking anything I don’t want analyzed over it.

But I wrote this post for you. Would you be willing to “sell” your data? How much of it, at what price?

Image: aussie, courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.

Shakirah DawudShakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.