Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Eager to Sell Your Personal Data? You'll Have to Wait

Should marketers pay consumers directly to access their personal data? The idea isn’t new but it’s become more popular as people see the huge profits that Google, Facebook, and others make from using that data, as consumers become more aware of the data trade, and as blockchain technology makes low cost micro-payments a possibility.

One result is a crop of new ventures based on the concept has popped up like mushrooms – which, like mushrooms, can be hard to tell apart. I’ve been mentioning these in the CDP Institute newsletter as I spot them but only recently found time to take a closer look. It turns out that these things I’ve been lumping together actually belong to several different species. None seem to be poisonous but it’s worth sharing a field guide to help you tell them apart.

Before we get into the distinguishing features, let’s look at what these all have in common. They’re all positioned as a way for consumers to get value from their data. I’ve also bumped into a number of data marketplaces that serve traditional data owners, such as Web site publishers and compilers. They can often use some of the same technologies, including micro-payments, blockchain, and crypto-currency tokens. Some even sell personal data, especially if they’re selling ads targeted with such data. Some sell other things, such as streams from Internet of Thing devices. Examples of such marketplaces include Sonobi, Kochava, Narrative I/O, Datonics, Rublix and IOTA. Again, the big difference here is the sellers in the traditional marketplaces are data aggregators, not private individuals.

Here’s a look a half-dozen ventures I’ve lumped into the personal data marketplace category (which I suppose needs a three letter acronym of its own).

Dabbl turns out to be a new version of an old idea, which is to pay people for taking surveys. There are dozens of these: here's a list.  Dabbl confused me with a headline that said “Everyone’s profiting from your time online but you.” Payment mechanism is old-school gift cards. On the plus side: unlike most products in this list, Dabble is up and running.

Thrive pays users for sharing their data, but only in the broad sense that they are paid to fill out profiles which are exposed to advertisers when the users visit participating Web sites. The advertisers are paying Thrive; individual users aren’t deciding who sees their data or paid to grant access on a buyer-by-buyer basis. Payments are made via a crypto-token which is on sale as I write this. The ad marketplace is scheduled for launch at the end of 2018. That sequence suggests there’s at least a little cryptocurrency speculation in the mix. (Another hint: they’re based in Malta. Yet another hint: the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission won’t let you buy the tokens.)

Nucleus Vision is also in the midst of its token sale.  But they’re much more interested in discussing a propriety technology that detects mobile phones as they enter a store and shares the owner’s data using blockchain as an exchange, storage, and authorization mechanism. Store owners can then serve appropriate offers to visitors. This sounds like a lot of other products except that Nucleus’ technology does it without a mobile app. (It does apparently need some cooperation from the mobile carrier.) Rewards are paid in tokens which can be earned for store visits, by using coupons or discounts, by making purchases, or by selling data. Each retailer runs its own program, so this isn’t a marketplace where different buyers bid for each consumer’s data.  Sensors are currently running in a handful of stores and the loyalty and couponing systems are under development.

Momentum is an outgrowth of the existing MobileBridge loyalty system.  It rewards customers with yet another crypto-token (on sale in late April) for marketer-selected behaviors. Brands can play as well as retailers but it’s still the same idea: each company defines its own program and each consumer decides which programs to join. The shared token makes it easy to exchange or pool rewards across programs. The published roadmap is ambiguous but it looks like they’re at least a year away from delivering a complete system.

YourBlock gets closer to what I originally had in mind: it stores personal data (in blockchain, of course), uses the data to target offers from different companies, and lets consumers decide which offers to accept. Yep, there’s a crypto-token that will be used to give discounts. Sales started yesterday (March 12) and are set to close by April 23. Development work on the rest of the platform will start after the sale is over, with a live product due this August.

Wibson calls itself a “consumer-controlled personal data marketplace” and, indeed, they fit the archetype: users install a mobile app, grant access to their data, and then entertain offers from potential buyers to read it. Storage and sharing are based on blockchain but payments are made via points rather than a crypto-token. At least that’s how it works at the moment: in fact, Wibson has just completed its initial mobile app and you can’t download it quite yet. During the initial stage, only Wibson will be able to buy users’ data and they’ll just use it for testing. If they’ve published a schedule for further development, I can’t find it.

So, that’s our little stroll through the personal data marketplace. Less here than meets the eye, perhaps – most players offer more or less conventional loyalty programs, although they use blockchain and crypto-tokens to deliver them.  True marketplaces are still in development. But it’s still an interesting field and well worth watching. As with mushrooms, look carefully before you bite.

1 comment:

StJ Deakins said...

Hi, We're up and running with the CitizenMe personal data exchange. All Personally identifiable information stays on device and is anonymised if it is shared. Citizens can share for immediate cash payments (via paypal) or can donate data to charities like Cancer Research. Citizens earn $10 per month (and rising). The community is growing at 5% per week and brands like banks, car manufacturers, consumer packaged goods companies, advertising agencies and even government data regulators are paying to access data.

We don't use blockchain as it's still too immature as a technology. Etherium peaks at 14 transactions per second, we already require 4,000 transactions per second. We'll use blockchain technology when it leaves proof of concept stage. https://www.citizenme.com/public/wp/blockchain-never-mind-bollocks/