Own Your Data. Own Your Future.

The big question of the data economy is simple: How valuable is your data? How much is your data worth? Should you be compensated for your raw data? And if, how? Let’s take a closer look at these questions. Right now, the discussion in the tech community is dominated by two opposing schools of thought. We take a look at both and make a new proposal.

The first school is maybe best exemplified by Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist at Amazon and teacher at Stanford, Berkeley, and Fudan University in Shanghai. He argues that raw data has no value at all in a monetary sense. Let alone the few data points an individual produces. Only billions of data points, generated by thousands if not millions of people that are aggregated and analyzed become valuable.

To generate data worth, one needs sophisticated systems and algorithms that search for usable correlations and patterns. The data refineries then can translate the refined data into services. The user pays for the service with his personal raw data. To make money, the corporations inventing and investing into these systems must capitalize in other ways — for example via advertising. Demanding further monetary payment for the data hence should not be the prime concern of the user. Instead, Weigend believes

you need to be demanding more powerful ways to gain control how, when, and why you share, what your data can be used for, and what you get as a result.”1

The second philosophy takes an entirely different angle. Thought leader here is Jaron Lanier of Microsoft Research. The philosopher and computer scientist currently teaches at Berkeley, Dartmouth College, and Annenberg. Bare with me if I spare you further name-dropping — his academic credentials are just too much. Lanier argues that the data giants only exist on your shoulders. The raw material you provide and they use is hence super valuable. As he puts it:

Your data is more worth than you might expect, in the future it might become your lifeline.”2

Consequently, he suggests micropayments. You should get a monetary reward every time you give up your data. The big data corporation should give you a part of their profits because they can not exist without you. Point blank. Simple.

Let’s compare this to the current situation. The status quo can be described humorously has “One-half-Weigend.” Big data corporation do invent and invest in sophisticated services based on your data. You get most services for “free.” In truth, your membership fee is the information you leave behind. So far, so Weigend. But what you don’t get is control, transparency, and agency. You don’t have the right to access, change, blur or delete your data. You don’t consent to usage. And you surely do not get paid for your profile. Meanwhile to quote Lanier again:

“Ordinary people ‘share’, while elite network presences generate unprecedented fortunes.”2

But would a Lanier world be better? “Lanier’s proposal for micropayment is a non-starter.”, Andreas Weigend argues,

If Facebook shared every cent of its profits — about $3.5 billion in 2015 — with its users, each user would receive about $3.50 for the year.”1

We are trapped.

The truth is, paradoxically both thinkers are right. Only if we challenge the fundamental rules of digital commerce, we can reconcile both philosophies. This is what wysker does. wysker allows the user to act upon his data. It gives the user the right to withhold data, to change data, to delete data. Data can be only used by consent. wysker strives for full transparency. The user decides about the when, how, why and what of data usage — down to each individual. If, and only if, the individual user gives his “Okay!”. The wysker ecosystem can accurately distill purchase intent. This is the big bang. The individual’s raw material suddenly becomes very valuable, tradeable and highly marketable.

A dream for marketers, advertisers and retailers becomes reality. They speak and target to individuals with a very probable purchase intent, high interest in their product, who expressed explicit consent to the usage of their data. They can tailor their offer down to the individual and the target group of one. And they are willing to pay for that. From their perspective: the price of “one” rises, but the overall cost sinks. Because they don’t spend any money of target.

The user then gets a fair share of this payment in form of wys Tokens which can be traded for rewards, discounts, and products. All while enjoying his rights and new found power. This is not a micropayment in the strict sense of Lanier, but a fair share of the marketing dollars. The marketing value of each user’s data is soaring because wysker combines purchase intent and expressed consent.

It is this new approach to digital commerce that reconciles the philosophies of Lanier and Weigend. As data becomes more and more powerful every day, and as Yuval Noah Harari puts it

the algorithms nevertheless seem poised to take over.”3

We believe that each user should take back control over their data. By making data valuable on the individual level while allowing for a data withhold, wysker helps people to take this step. While fairly satisfying the economic interest of everyone in the market. Data of the people will hence truly become data for people. After all: your data is your future. It’s time to take over full control.

1 Weigend, Andreas S. Data for the People: How to Make Our Post-Privacy Economy Work for You. Basic Books, 2017.

2 Lanier, Jaron. Who Owns the Future? Penguin Books, 2014.

3 Harari, Yuval Noah. “Yuval Noah Harari on Big Data, Google and the End of Free Will.” Financial Times, 26 Aug. 2016, www.ft.com/content/50bb4830-6a4c-11e6-ae5b-a7cc5dd5a28c.