A lot of media coverage about personal data and metadata focus on how organisations, governments and individuals try to protect online media users in a data-driven internet economy. The increase of the commercial importance of personal data seems inevitable. While these protective attempts are obviously very important, I want to focus on an alternative approach. Instead of shielding vulnerable internet users, there are several tools that empower and inform them. I tried out Datacoup and earned money with my personal data. Nowadays, new media users are at the same time audience members, participants and consumers. They are coined prosumers (producer/consumer hybrid) or produsers, a hybrid of user/producer. According to Van Dijck the concept of users is even more nuanced with different levels of participation, creation and activity. Whereas only a small percentage of users create content, all categories of users qualify as potential consumers. Van Dijck sees users as both content providers and data providers (2009, p. 47).
In their internet activities users create data, not only by uploading content, but also by surfing the web, subscribing to websites or services and purchasing products online. Every online move, click and interaction is tracked, users have no power over the distribution of their data (Van Dijck, p. 47). Dutch television show Tegenlicht produced an excellent episode about the value of personal data in 2013, which you can find here. All our data is mined by data brokers. We distribute free data, that large firms collect, combine and use to make excessive amounts of money. While various organisations and individuals have attempted to regulate or even stop tracking via cookies and to disable data brokers, the ‘own your data movement’ takes on a different approach. Instead of trying to stop the developments they step right in and aim to empower the user. For example, this blog lists 7 tools to control your data. There are also various online services that enable you to sell your own data (most of them are still in a beta phase).
Out of curiousity, I connected my online profiles to Datacoup, an online tool that enables you to collect, monitor, manage and sell your personal data. As a user, you develop from an uninformed en inexhaustible source of data into a conscious trader of your own data. Datacoup claims: “Privacy, for us, is a consumer having an equal seat at the data negotiating table with businesses (and even government)” (Blog.datacoup.com). I set up my account almost one year ago and earned about €10,- with my personal data (the payments are transferred to my Paypall-account on a regular basis). At the moment, my data is bought by Datacoup itself, as they are building valuable data sets to attract future purchasers. While I am not entirely sure how I feel about the commercial use of my personal data, I do think that attempts to empower users do increase awareness about the use of your personal data. I will get back to you with more thoughts about Datacoup and other ways to own your data later. For now, I wanted to share a alternative view about the personal data of internet users. Do you have any experience with similar tools or services? Let me know about your experiences!