Only a handful of corporations really profit from all the data that is collected when users browse the internet. Giants like Facebook and Google compete for your personal data so they can use that information to target you with advertising. Their advertising businesses are so dominant that many of the world’s largest consumer-facing companies rely heavily on their services.
Personal data has real value. The problem is that, until now, there has been no technical way for ordinary people to exploit this value for themselves. So we remain at the mercy of the freemium model: pay to use email, search engines and social media — not with money but with your personal information and privacy. We all know who is winning that game.
In a few months, we won’t have to accept this. There is an alternative.
Swash (formerly Surf-Streamr) is a new plugin available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge (Chromium version), which allows you to monetize the data you already generate whilst using your browser. What data you share with the outside world is fully controlled by you. That data is sent to a “data union” where it is aggregated and sold on your behalf (by the team who have built this plugin) on the Streamr Marketplace. This data union is a firehose that contains all the information that everyone with a Swash plugin has permissioned to be shared. The more people that join the data union, the greater the value that everyone can extract from buyers. The data union backend is powered by a platform created by the open-source project Streamr.
Organisations that are interested in using that information can subscribe to the data firehose through the Streamr Marketplace, and that payment will be automatically distributed to all the users who participate in the data union. In essence, the buyer is directly paying you for your information. And you are in full control of what you share.
The Swash plugin contains a few sections that users can navigate. A profile section so you can enter payment details. Advanced filters so you can select the data you feel comfortable sharing in a way that suits you. And dedicated data modules so users can enable specific settings for a service.
Say you want to share your Facebook data. Within the dedicated Facebook module you can select exactly the kind of data you’d like to share. For example, you can enable the module to share your “User Likes” data but disable sharing your “User Friends” data. That’s what will take place, every time you visit Facebook within your browser.
The plugin also contains a five-point slider so you can set a privacy level that suits you. Each level contains its own variations. And each module can be set differently so you can have full control over what is sent and how it is sent. In the pictures below, you can compare and contrast the output of the lowest and highest privacy settings.
Advanced Filters are there for you to mask specific URLs that you do not want to share. You can specifically exclude them by adding them to the list. Think of login URLs from frequently used websites. You can also mask a specific piece of text that you don’t want to share. You are in full control when sharing your data.
This marketplace should not be confused with the Streamr Marketplace. The marketplace within the Swash plugin allows you to search for newly released modules from websites and services, so you can incorporate specific privacy settings when visiting those websites. The modules that you add will be visible within the Module category for you to adjust.
The Streamr Marketplace is an open-source platform created by Streamr. Streamr is a project that uses the Ethereum blockchain and works with an ERC20 token called DATAcoin.
Streamr is creating an open-source platform for the free and fair exchange of the world’s real-time data and their blockchain-backed data Marketplace and powerful tools are created to put your data back where it belongs — with you.
The Swash plugin has been in private beta testing for a few weeks at the time of writing. We are currently testing the plugin with about 40+ community members who are interested in participating in order to find bugs and inconsistencies. The next stage is to ensure integration with Streamr platform once the plugin is completed in a few months, so it can be tested as a fully-fledged data union; a massive real-time data set, drawing upon the aggregated and permissioned data from all users of the plugin. These raw user-generated data sets liberate data, some of which is currently not shared by companies such as Google, and make it available for all to purchase. Data unions like this are therefore real game-changers to the data economy.