Here we go again; another ‘game changing’ data purchasing initiative has emerged on a heroic mission to empower individuals to sell their own personal data. The pioneers change but the premise remains the same: people should be able to exchange their personal information for cash, prizes, or both.
While some may agree with this proposition, the inconvenient truth is that the majority of people simply don’t care. Concerns about personal data are not ones of ‘value’ and as such, these schemes will continue to fail time and time again.
These kind of initiatives have been around for years. One of the most high-profile was launched by Justin Basini (ex-Capital One marketing director) in 2011. Bastini’s i-Allow aimed to give consumers a ‘slice of the pie’ by offering £10 to individuals to opt in and out of marketing. It failed after about two years.
Now, we are hearing the same old narrative resurfacing. The FT recently reported on new UK companies targeting consumers with cash in return for data. According to reports, CitizenMe and People.io are all planning to roll out similar services next year.
The truth of the matter is that these initiatives will ultimately always fail. While consumers will generally agree with the principle of the fair exchange of data, feeding data to companies for peanuts is simply not worth anyone’s time.
When it comes to personal data, privacy is the number one concern for consumers, not value. Individuals want to know that their information is secure and is not going to end up in the hands of god knows who. Consumers are not interested in signing over their data for a small fee only to have it abused further down the line. The fair exchange that consumers want is the one where their information is protected and their choices respected.
Data privacy is of course a legitimate issue but it is one that is being dealt with by the European Data Protection Regulation. The issue of ‘value’, however, seems to be a complete red herring to me. The long and the short of it is that individuals that don’t want their data out there will not sell it for five, fifty or five hundred pounds.
Of course, it cannot possibly be in an individual’s interests to be inundated with irrelevant rubbish from random advertisers. But, perhaps more importantly, it won’t ever be equitable or in the advertiser’s interest either. Once the industry nails this once and for all, negative perceptions of data ownership will be displaced.
In my view, it is perfectly legitimate for companies to obtain data from their customers so long as it is done in a manner which is honest, open and transparent and for the right reasons, whereby the consumer can say ‘stop’ and it stops! DIY data sales or glorified stop mail services are no way forward for the industry and quite frankly, I’m bored now, may we move on?
Mark Roy is chairman of The REaD Group