While the collection and sale of personal data to advertisers is inevitable, one startup is hoping to put some of the control — and profits — back in the hands of consumers.
Although it is currently in its early stages, the CitizenMe app will eventually inform users of what data is being gathered on them, and give them the option to sell this data directly to the advertisers, cutting out data brokers, Forbes reports.
Users will be able to choose what data they want shared and will be compensated through Paypal, bank transfers or Bitcoin. Though Forbes notes that the payments will be relatively small.
Aside from giving users more control over their data, the project also aims to make advertising more effective. Rather than following the current trend of simply bombarding people with ads based on Google searches and other activity, CitizenMe will attempt to determine when users will be most open to certain types of advertisement.
“The idea is that advertising you see on the web is tailored to you,” StJohn Deakins, CEO and founder of CitizenMe, told Forbes.
In light of the intrusive nature of this feature, Deakins has pledged to maintain high levels of transparency in his company’s operations. He is establishing the CitizenMe Foundation, an independent group that he claims will monitor his for-profit side, and support charitable causes. Through the foundation, Deakins somehow hopes to regain some of the trust lost by the advertising industry.
“We need market driven change to help get the trust and realize all the benefits,” he said.
The data collection and selling features are expected to be implemented by the end of the year, but in the mean time, iOS users can download an early version of the app that applies its dual focus of privacy protection and data analysis to social media accounts.
In addition to identifying potential privacy vulnerabilities, TechCrunch reports that the app provides notifications any time a social network updates its terms and conditions. The CitizenMe app also gives users an insight into how advertisers view them, presenting “personality” results, such as to what degree a person is liberal of conservative, reserved or outgoing, and assertive or cooperative.