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Money for Personal Data



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Video: Data Mining




For Facebook and Google, it’s easy: users provide them with loads of information about themselves. The companies use the data to trim ads to users’ probable in-terests.

But who owns that data?

In the European Union, under the new, general data protection regulation, the users remain owners of their own data.

So shouldn’t they also benefit financially, if social media and internet firms make money with it?

The American-German startup, Data Wallet has developed technology that lets internet users keep their data private, and helps them to earn when the data is being used.

Serafin Lion Engel, Datawallet Co-Founder: “Five to ten years down the road, we’ll look back at this as the “dark ages” of data, where we had no control and basically anyone could claim control of our data, and we had no way to interfere, right?

And I think data in the future will be one of the most important assets for people to own. And we’ll be one of the most substantial revenue streams for data to be able to monetize and live on.”

While the rules in the EU are now very tough, in many countries, data rules and ownership are still unregulated.

Data Wallet, which is currently in the beta-phase, says it lets users determine themselves who can use their data.

Social media companies gather “likes”, “comments” and status reports, use them to infer emotional states and attitudes. Photos that people upload are another important source of data for them.

Online retailers monitor shopping habits and infer preferences and lifestyles. Registered users of dating sites and online forums also reveal a lot, perhaps more than they realize.

Retailers’ discount cards tell the relevant parties how much money you spent.

But all the data have to be processed and evaluated. And that’s what makes them valuable.

And that’s where data brokers enter the picture. They purchase big data sets and analyze them to draw up user profiles.

Karsten Nohl, IT Security Consultant: “Profiles describe individuals, their fears, needs, and perhaps their financial status. That allows for targeted advertising tailored to our pocketbook.

They can even describe us better than our best friends can.”

Karsten Nohl is a data security expert and consultant. He views the global data market critically. It’s a huge business which benefits only a few.

Karsten Nohl, IT Security Consultant: “Google has a revenue of over a hundred billion dollars ($100 billion) a year from advertising. The companies running those ads have to take in the hundreds of billions to pay for the ads. So they add a certain amount to the products they sell; so a single company is earning hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on each user.”

Data Wallet turns the table on the online giants: it plans to have its clients man-age their data via its website and earn a share, if and when the data are sold.

Data Wallet is a small startup, so Facebook and Google probably don’t feel threatened. Still, its agenda should alarm the big boys.

Serafin Lion Engel, Datawallet Co-Founder: “We basically allow all of the people to take all of the data they create on the internet, over the hundreds of platforms they use, put it into one profile, and — based on expressed consent — share that with companies they deem worthy sharing this data with.

So if you have your data set, you can sell it to one company, but you can also sell it to fifty companies.”

It’s an interesting project: helping people to assert ownership of their online data, while making some money in the process.


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1. What is Facebook’s and Google’s business model or strategy?

2. Is this a controversial practice? What is the central issue?

3. “Five to ten years down the road, we’ll look back at this as the “dark ages” of data . . .” Did Mark Zuckerberg say this? What does this mean? What was the speaker referring to?

4. What is the ideal situation, according to Data Wallet and many people?

5. What are the sources of personal online data? Is only the raw data sufficient, or does it require data processing and analysis? Do Facebook and Google do this automatically?

6. The IT data security expert and consultant has a positive attitude towards the current Big Data market. Is this right or wrong?

7. Data Wallet another “typical” social media platform. Is this correct or incorrect? What’s their agenda? What is the business model?


A. My friends and I use Facebook and Google as a normal part of our lives. Yes or no?

B. Are people concerned about their personal data and privacy, or they don’t really care?

C. Would you prefer the status quo, complete data privacy, or selling your per-sonal information for its market value?

D. What may happen in the future?

E. Should Google and Facebook be broken up through anti-trust measures?

F. What should people or governments do?


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