Can anyone profit from selling their own personal data ?

No, this is not the next Black Mirror episode’s script, but a credible system we could soon see coming : personal data used as a currency.

Redeem some of your digital data for a free coffee, a very surprising deal offered by Shiru, a Japanese café, now also established in the United States. To obtain your free drink, students have to give their basic information (name, e-mail, phone, address, birth date), the discipline they are studying in university, their professional interests and an agreement to receive adds.

But can we really consider this coffee to be  “free” when personal data are an integrated part of the deal ? Not really.

An underrated value

Our personal data are, in fact, already used as currency in commercial transactions, and have been for some time. The reason you just never got profit from them is because other companies and organisations are already doing it for you. Every day,search engines and social networks resell  tons of your personal data to companies.

This fact highlights a great and important matter : personal data do have a commercial value. And a significant one. One consumer’s data may be worth less than one dollar, but when a Tech giant like Facebook brings together millions of users’ data, the selling price skyrocks instantly.

Once sold, these generate astronomic incomes for buyers who use them for ads and especially targeting advertising.

Meaning that our  existence on the Internet does have a lot of value for these companies. However, it’s still impossible for us to make profit selling our personal data alone, at least for now. Plus, consumers are not the exclusive owners of their own data, and therefore don’t have full control over them.

Personal data and blockchain : the perfect new cryptocurrency?

To gain back control over our own private data, the first step would be to let Internet users sell their own without any intermediaries standing between them and buyers. That’s why the high secured blockchain system is regularly mentioned by adherents of the Web 3.0 as a way to prevent frequent and numerous data hacks and breaches. But blockchain is also one of many arguments advocating in favour of a new system of data transaction.

Some “Data marketplaces” already exist today, where companies sell data to the highest bidder and try making the most profit possible out of them. But obviously, this marketplaces are not open to everyone.

If we, normal users, wanted to use our data as a new currency, the best way to do it would be to give them in exchange of products or services.Let’s try with a common example : a patient use an app in order to manage his diabetes. He shares basic and medical data with the app : glucose levels, height, weight, its last treatment or medical appointment. Thanks to these personal data, the app is able to give a personalised assistance and the patient can easily manage his diabetes. He can therefore live with his diabetes in a more comfortable way thanks to that data exchange.

And this is not an isolated case. Indeed, this voluntary sending of data is a credible system and a very common one in our society. A system we don’t even pay attention to anymore.

A very common system already in place

We already exchange our personal data with products and services on a regular basis. A very common example of it is  the loyalty card. Indeed, we let our information (mail, purchase history, city), free of charge to brands in order to receive discounts from them.

Some American insurances have decided to send clients a free Apple Watch in exchange for their medical data (recorded directly by the smart watch). Again, data allow clients to get discounts.

To go back to the  Shiru coffee place, the café explained that they are always keeping the students’ interests in mind. They receive surveys, apps advertising, etc and get exclusive and personalized opportunities in return… and why not a potentially future employment ?

Generating data while browsing the net is unavoidable nowadays, except with some search engine or some other ,more or less burdensome, methods which allow you to stay safe from data collection.

So would you rather collaborate with big firms, keeping at least some control over your own personal data, choosing which one you share to them, or try to escape and keep all of your data away from them, often in vain ?

Crédits Photos : Licence CC0

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