Every second you interact with your digital devices, you create data. What you’re clicking, liking, sharing, and posting masks a wealth of information about you and your habits that companies and marketing firms would love to know so that they can better target you.
A new app called DataWallet, which launched on June 9th, wants people to opt into sharing their data (the app maker sells it to marketing firms) so they can make a quick buck on the information they inadvertently already provide.
The unusual service takes the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude to data-snooping.
The multibillion-dollar data brokerage industry operates largely in the shadows, culling information using everything from registration records at the DMV to Facebook pages — and pretty much anything that resides in the public domain. It’s all a little bit creepy.
“The only way to make sure we are empowered in the process is by bringing something to market that is better,” founder and CEO of DataWallet, Serafin Lion Engel, tells Tech Insider.
The set-up process begins with deciding what data you want to share. Members can give access to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts, and fine-tune the settings for each if they don’t, for example, want to include their hometown or work history.
DataWallet, which was founded in 2015, aggregates this data from all parties, strips it of any personally identifiable information (such as name, email, and phone number), and condenses it into analytics reports. Companies can then buy those reports from DataWallet.
Users turn a profit on every report sold that includes their data, which stretches back to the creation of their social accounts. Payouts vary from $1 to $50 and occur at a frequency of every two months or so, according to Engel. The more accounts you link to DataWallet, the higher the likelihood that your data will be purchased.
The average payout is $10. Engel expects that number to rise as more users join the app, making the service more valuable to companies and marketing firms who will then purchase the reports.
The service is only worthwhile for consumers if they’re making money on it (which requires lots of buyers), but the buyers will only purchase reports if the service attracts a massive user base. It’s a classic chicken-versus-egg conundrum, though Engel insists buyers will be attracted to the depth of DataWallet’s data. Typically, these firms have access to public data, which users can control in settings. DataWallet unlocks new, more interesting information, such as what users are talking about online, when they’re online, and what they care about.
“It’s an unprecedented way for you to understand your consumers,” Engel says.
More than 20,000 people have joined the waitlist for the app, which launched on Apple’s App Store on June 10.
In the future, the company hopes to integrate other data-centric services that go beyond social. Users might volunteer data on their Amazon Prime purchases or Netflix account, in exchange for discounts or better recommendations.
DataWallet has a long way to go before it can make any promises regarding security. It currently uses “state-of-the-art encryption” to protect users’ data, according to Engel, and is working to implement more advanced measures.
Of course, opting in to share your data doesn’t prevent other data brokers from also taking it. Engel hopes the company’s intimate relationships with users provides a competitive advantage over other data brokers, so they might one day be forced to cooperate with users in order to stay in business. It’s all about baby steps.
“It’s not just a way more ethical way of going about it,” Engel says, “it is the only ethical way to go about it.”