Many consumers today never cease to worry about how their personal data is being used, abused or their online movements tracked. In response to these concerns, a number of products are beginning to appear, whose purpose is to enable ordinary people to take back control of – or even monetise – their own personal data.

Consumers Poised to Take Back Control of Their Own Data

The furore that arose over the Prism mass electronic surveillance data mining programme run by the United States National Security Agency has rekindled debate on how personal data should be handled. “There’s an unbalanced relationship between online advertisers and Internet users – who are basically not in control of their own data,” points outTristan Nitot, head of Mozilla Europe. As individual people, such asthe US student who mounted a Kickstarter campaign to sell his own data, become increasingly aware of the financial value of their digital trail, new international players are emerging, offering Internet users the means to take back ownership of their personal information.

New players in the personal data market

According to a report from the Boston Consulting Groupentitled ‘The Value of Our Digital Identity’, the total value of personal data for organisations (€330 billion) and individuals (€670 billion) will amount to a trillion euros by 2020. “Users will increasingly gravitate to the centre of this market, especially with the advance of the Quantified Self movement,” predicts Gerald Bäck, co-founder of Archify, a now defunct platform set up to help people keep their digital records for their own use rather than that of advertisers. In parallel, Mozilla’s pluginCollusionenables users to see in real time which third parties are tracking their online movements. In contrast to services of this kind, designed to counter undesirable practices vis-à-vis Internet users, startups such as and Yes Profile have taken the opposite stance, i.e. providing users with the tools they need to set up direct relationships with advertisers. The principle is simple: you create your own profile, type in your email address and fill in questionnaires on your favourite brands, personal tastes, etc and decide on the companies/brands/organisations to which you are prepared to give your data and how much you wish to charge them for your information. “Remuneration may be in the form of money or services, and users can even choose to donate to a charity,” explains Yes Profile's founder Christian-François Viala. Launched in 2006,, which started out as an e-reputation management site, now claims it already has a million users.

Rise of One-to-One Marketing and Permission Marketing

As such tools become available to Internet users, customers will start to manage their own relationships with brands. They will be able to sort out the brands they like from the others,” underlines Daniel Kaplan, founder of the mesinfos (My Information) project, which is based on the Vendor Relation Management principle. “In the near future, every consumer will have his/her own profile and it will be up to the brands to ask for authorisation to use the data,” predicts Christian-François Viala, who is betting on one-to-one marketing and permission marketing. “Moreover, brands will be forced to provide a high-quality service in exchange for the information they obtain, rather than untargeted advertising,” adds Emanuel Vivier, a digital marketing consultant who co-founded the digital think tank Hub Institute. One example is thepersonalised coaching service app offered by Nike+, based on data from the user’s training sessions. “Instead of imposing rules, Nike gives its users the choice of whether they want to be tracked or not, and if they agree to be tracked they will in return receive a real service,” points out Emmanuel Vivier.

By Ruolin Yang