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Personal.com & Singly.com – If Internet Privacy is Gone, Users Could “Profit”

personal.com_internet privacy_data collectionFollowing Google’s now-infamous privacy policy changes, data control sites such as Personal.com and Singly.com have followed the wave picking up a great deal controversial buzz. Personal.com, started by CEO Shane Green, allows users to consolidate their online personal activity, what industry individuals now call and use as online ‘data’, into a Personal.com-coined “data vault”. Users then set sharing preferences for their friends and families, and in the future, for companies to use in targeted marketing for which the individual receives compensation for providing their data opening to companies. Similarity, Singly.com allows users to also gather their online data into one place, which is then incorporated into The Locker Project. This allows developers to continually work at creating personalized apps for participating individuals. Whether the online data is used for a consenting individual’s own profit from companies interested targeting marketing to them, or used as part of a collection for developers to create personalized applications, the data itself is now more than ever a source of measurable power and by the same token, finite privacy risk. 

“Personal” vs. “Private”

It’s hard to not have seen this coming years earlier, even though when Green began Personal in 2009 he does maintain that the concept was hard for others in the industry to grasp as useful. Since social media took of in popularity and profits years back, there has been skepticism about privacy issues regarding publicizing, even under privacy setting, your personal information.

Erik Qualman’s 2009 book, SocialNomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, became and industry standard for what to expect with this new phase of technology called “social media”. The books counterpart, very appropriate to the theme as a youtube video, Socialnomics: Social Media Revolution, predicted the future influence of social sharing of data, challenging the notion that social media was a fad and rather relating it as the “biggest shift since the Industry Revolution”. It was predicted in later videos that due to social media and in the near future, we would no longer search for brands, but that they would find us.  It certainly didn’t take long as user tracking is now common practice for small and large companies and has been for some time. 

Gradually, and as social media and online activity skyrocketed in use, privacy and the extent of user activity tracking has become a more valid, legal concern and also industry. User tracking tools range in price from free to thousands per month. PPC bids increasing raise in costs for a variety of reasons, but most importantly to this topic, in part because there is a coincided increased use and business in online shopping and social commerce.

In response to the immense sigma surrounding the word ‘privacy’ most companies have moved to the term ‘personalization’ when referring to matching shoppers with products and services based on data collected. Google explains their new privacy policy as “Tailored for you”. Rather than the use the term “private”, Google refers to their data collect in their Privacy Policy Preview as “personal”. In fact they use the word twenty times. Clearly, privacy is long gone, a realization which Personal has known for a while and now is the basis for the company. Rather than fight the privacy issues, Personal, rather innovatively, looks to help individuals capitalize on the “personal” information that is already being collected.

“I think what’s happening now is that, finally, people are becoming aware of how their data’s being used… And in the future, they’re not going to be just giving this stuff up.” – Shane Green, CEO, Personal

Can you really put a price on your online activity?

Personal’s future plans aim to safely allow users to sell their personal data to companies they choose.

The model that’s going to emerge is one where people, in a much safer and more controlled environment, let some of their data filter out and decide what kind of people will be able to even reach them at all. And when they do, they won’t know their identity.” – Shane Green, CEO, Personal

On one hand an, the idea isn’t that far-fetched or difficult to understand. Survey and study participants are often paid upwards of $75 per hour for providing answers and partaking in research in controlled settings. The data obtained then becomes the basis for entire, not to mention expensive, marketing campaigns as well as new products and services. Medical studies and test-runs of medications have a pay-out of even more, for the exact same purpose: Data collection. This begs the question, Why would anyone feel any different being paid for providing online activity data?

“It’s not even about the money any more,” he said. “It’s about the principle. I think that’s the emotional vein that people are tapped into right now”  - Shane Green, CEO, Personal 

Jason Cavnar of Singly takes a slightly further spin on data collection, citing personalization as more than enough of a valid reason for users providing data. The necessity and benefits that come from personalization experiences based on data collection are only beginning to grow, he explains:

“The price of using free Web services shouldn’t be our privacy. But until there are market solutions, I don’t see that trend changing … What we’re doing is more about actually making the data you create useful.

We’re trying to create a new push for creativity, a new push for experiences… We’re starting to see the power of personal apps, but there are not nearly enough of them.” - Jason Cavnar Co-Founder and CEO, Singly

What to Expect: Data Collection in the Future

The success or failures of data collection companies will surely be intertwined with legal regulations we are yet to find, but more importantly user response to these services will mostly determine overall popularity and use.  Essentially users already lack choices, seeing a search is dependent on your location and IP address. Actually, the term ‘search’ engine is rather misleading when ads are literally finding the searchers already. It becomes a personal question of interest. Do you want your (browser) history to determine what you find in the future, or would you rather run through countless results on your own to find everything you need? Most likely, personalization of the web is no longer that debatable, but how soon it becomes acceptable certainly still is. 

Sources: CNN.com, Socialnomics.net, Personal.com, Singly.com, YouTube.com

 


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