Personal Data - How to Control Info and Get Paid For Being You

Here’s a quick and easy way to break some of the current monopolies that exist in the personal data market (looking at Google, Facebook and Amazon). Let people own their own data, disseminate it as they see fit and, shockingly, get paid for what is rightfully theirs.

The concept is simple, the implementation is challenging and requires a good size investment from somewhere at the outset. I’ll explain the concept first and then circle back around to the implementation at the end.

A personal data exchange. Simply explained, each person 18 and over, has the right to list themselves on a “data” exchange, just like companies list their equity on a stock exchange. Each individual would get a listing off their own on the exchange. So ideally the exchange would have hundreds of millions of listings. One, for each unique person. This exchange, which would function as a clearinghouse for YOUR data. It would be the marketplace to go to for companies, of all kinds, to retrieve the data that they require from the sellers of data — YOU. If you list John Q Public on the exchange and want to severely limit the data you provide the world, that is your choice, however, because your data is used less frequently, you will get paid very little for being John Q Public. Privacy, is your right and you should be in control of your own data.

However, if John Q Public lists his data, answers questions submitted by the marketplace, responds in a timely manner to requests and is generally open about preferences, opinions and many other pieces of information in demand, then John Q Public will find a nice revenue stream associated with this very valuable data.

The marketplace is interactive. It starts with many of the key data items that are commonly available on a simple internet search. However, as you file your “listing” on the exchange then companies will seek your information, maybe thru GPS location, maybe via your search and query results. They may also send out questionaires. If you, the listing company, find yourself uncomfortable answering certain data questions, then stop. You are in control. You release your data. How you want, when you want. Do you want your shopping tracked? If yes, then allow it. Maybe only certain shopping is included. Furthermore, this data does not have to be “public”. It can be provided directly to a client company anonymously (anonymous data is cheaper to the company and pays you less as well). As the listing entity, providing the data, you will be in control. Companies can come to the marketplace and create datasets. Ask questions of the personal listings in an attempt to grow a business, design their alogirthms or pivot a marketing strategy. They can pay for high quality information which will be crucial to their business. As a “listed entity” you would have responsibility to respond, if you want to get paid. You must answer, truthfully, completely and in a timely manner. If the data proves to be useless over time because people lie and obscure relevant information, than the marketplace breaks down and people will lose CONTROL over the data, the way that it exists today.

It is hard to know how valuable this data is. Today, it is priced at zero by the owners of the data — you. Google and Facebook make nearly $100 billion per year, selling your data — selling you. I am certain that given the choice between no Google Search engine, no facebook and $1000 in your pocket. Most people will choose the $1000. Furthermore, it is an excellent way to democratize wealth as anyone will be eligible to participate.

Now, implementation is a challenge, but not insurmountable. The absolute key is that you must launch the exchange with many, many listings. Therefore, to motivate individuals to list on the exchange, they will need to be compensated to do so. I find that money has a way of getting people’s attention. However, we aren’t talking about a small amount of money, as the minimum number of listings probably needs to be 20–30 million people from the outset to make the dataset meaningful. Furthermore, an incentive system to encourage people to help others list will be valuable. So the capital required to incentivize the listing is significant, well over $2 billion just to launch. Fortunately, there are a few large pools of investors, unbiased and correctly aligned with individuals to fund the endeavor.

Secondly, the technological challenge of this exchange is not trivial. Handling over 100 million listings of John and Sarah Q Publics is a sizable endeavor. Furthermore, the front-end will need to be extremely flexible and user friendly to ensure that all listings can easily and efficiently manage their data.

The education process is also monumental as many people do NOT value their data, furthermore they do not value their privacy. They are content to give away this asset for free, or at least in exchange for a forum to fight about politics, post some pictures, search the web, have a laugh or order some goods to be delivered in less than 2 days. However, success here breeds success and with the right incentive structure, I believe that this process will go viral. If the money is sufficient enough, then data will become an important revenue stream for individuals and households.

Finally, this has to be done at a truly institutional level. It requires the cache of the New York Stock Exchange or Chicago Mercantile Exchange to demonstrate the “seriousness” of the concept, combined with the institutional fortitude to handle the sheer magnitude required to make this successful and finally with the technology chops and delivery expertise to pull it all together and provide an exceptional experience for the listed individuals. This idea has been tried or discussed on a smaller scale, but small scale doesn’t work for the companies in the data business. This idea is go big or go home, but in terms of privacy and control of personal data, there is no better way than to put you in charge and let the market pay you directly.

The disintermediation of Google, Facebook and Amazon in the “control your data business” is just a perk…