Introducing Personal Data Exchanges & the Personal Data Economy

The next big technological shift is to a world where every individual can manage and (optionally) monetise their personal data.

Get in on the next big thing: Personal Data Exchanges. Image courtesy Tuesday Tech Tip
Companies like Facebook and Google already make billions because they know everything about us via our online habits. What if we could take a cut? What if we could own and sell our data directly?

Our personal data is an economic asset generated by a combination of our identity (demographics), our behaviour (psychographics— our interests, attitudes, and opinions) and our purchases (the lifestyle we lead based on what we vote for with our hard-earned income).

This asset is commonly traded for perceived higher value services and products. Examples are:

  • Being able to find information quickly online (Google);
  • Being able to share personal memories with friends and families (Facebook);
  • Being able to network with business colleagues and prospects (LinkedIn);
  • Being able to pay for purchases without carrying cash (Visa, MasterCard, et al).

If this hot-potato topic of data ownership and ‘privacy’ is new to you, here’s a quick primer on who owns your data, courtesy of Hub-of-All-Things:

Bottom line:

Platforms often know more about us than we know about us.

As bleak as this may sound, there is a shift underway:

  • From data owned, controlled and sold by companies
  • To data owned, controlled and sold by the individuals who generate the data.

Here’s what Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, has said about personal data:

“Our online lives currently operate in a provider-centric system, where privacy policies tend to serve the interests of the provider or of a third party, rather than the individual. Using the data they collect, advertising networks, social network providers and other corporate actors are able to build increasingly complete individual profiles. This makes it difficult for individuals to exercise their rights or manage their personal data online. A more human-centric approach is needed, which empowers individuals to control how their personal data is collected and shared.” — Giovanni Buttarelli, European Data Protection Supervisor, October 2016

The more human-centric approach Buttarelli refers to is currently being birthed, thanks to Personal Data Exchanges.

But what exactly is a Personal Data Exchange?

“A Personal Data Exchange (PDE) is a technology platform that enables individuals to own their personal data, manage their privacy and optionally monetise some or all of their digital DNA. PDE’s power the rapidly-emerging Personal Data Economy, where users — rather than platforms — benefit from User Generated Content and Data.”

Essentially, a PDE shifts control of personal data from the platform to the person. Its about letting individuals take ownership of their information so they can share it on their terms.

Contrary to popular belief, consumers (especially the younger generation) are no longer concerned about preserving their privacy. They are instead thinking about who has, and who should profit from their data, and how they can take back control, or even use their personal data to make life easier via a PDE. Makers, founders, disruptors and innovators are meeting this need by building platforms that empower users to control their data.

Examples of Personal Data Exchanges

I’ve been involved in the PDE space since 2013 and I’ve advised and consulted with 5 startups building products that can be described as PDE’s (an as-yet unnamed industry). Based on the interviews and research my team and I have conducted, here is a list of current Personal Data Exchanges. If you know of any others, please let me know.

  1. CitizenMe: Founded in July 2013 by StJohn Deakins. A personal information management service which empowers digital citizens with their personal data. Collect personal data and apply AI to create personal insights. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  2. Cozy: Founded in November 2012 by Benjamin Andre, Cozy Cloud is a web application that helps users organize their digital information. Raised $6.03M in 2 rounds from 3 investors. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  3. Datacoup: Founded in June 2012 by Matt Hogan, DataCoup offers a data exchange platform for consumers to aggregate and sell their own anonymous personal data. Raised $1.28M in 2 rounds. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  4. Started in June 2009 as SocialSafe by Julian Ranger, rebranded to in 2014. Stores and shares personal health and finance data with businesses in exchange for personalised offers and rewards. Launched industry-wide discussion forum Internet of Me in 2015. Raised $10.64M in 6 rounds from 8 investors. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  5. Domain registered November 2012. The initiative of 6 UK universities: Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Surrey, Warwick, West of England. Platform was created to trade and exchange personal data for services in a standardised and structured manner. Raised £54,839 via crowdfunding in April 2016. Twitter.
  6. Launched early 2014. Billed as the world’s smartest content discovery app, Jottr builds a rich user profile of what you enjoy reading online, filters out what you don’t enjoy. Funding, Twitter.
  7. Mass Network: Conceptualised in March 2016 by Alexander Kuzmin, Mass provides a blockchain-based solution to the problems of online advertising, such as pop-ups and exploitative practices. Raised 332.148 BTC (about $338,000) in an ICO in December 2016. Team, Prospectus, Twitter.
  8. Meeco: Founded in 2012 by Katryna Dow, Meeco is an online service that enables its users to manage life and their important digital relationships. Popularising the API-of-Me with Meeco Labs. Worth reading the founder’s manifesto. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  9. Launched March 2014. Rebranded to Sofiia in mid-2016 (see below). Vision was to map the Human Technology Genome.
  10. Domain registered November 2014. Billed as the world’s first Personal Data Exchange, their vision is to create a world where every individual is empowered to monetize and manage their personal data and privacy.
  11. Launched early 2016. Uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing to build an accurate personality profile for each user. Raised $1.1M in 1 Round. Listed on the ASX in November 2016. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  12. Founded October 2015 by Nicholas Oliver. Gives people ownership of their data to enable the next evolution of human connectivity. Raised an undisclosed amount in 2 rounds from 6 investors. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  13. Launched May 2016 by Tracy Saville. Aims to redefine online personal relationships by building rich personal profiles, owned and controlled by the user. Team, Funding, Twitter.
  14. Founded 2015 by Chris Gledhill and Vicky Barton. Envisions a world where every person’s worth is the contents of their character, not the contents of their wallet. A proximity-based social discovery app where users create value tokens backed by their reputations. Raised undisclosed amount in 1 round. Team, Funding, Twitter.

Who’s missing?

Please let me know of any others by posting a response.

Why is the rise of PDE’s important anyway?

Society is undergoing a shift from command and control to collaboration and co-opetition. PDE’s are a natural next step in humanity’s development. There is a rather vigorous debate going on around Universal Basic Income, and I see PDE’s potentially playing a role in determining what every individual receives, but that is a topic for another day.

Here’s my take on where the future is going: