The Internet knows everything about you: where you shop, what you like, your age, race, the sex stuff. The Internet also knows how to make money from what it knows. Every click is worth something to a data broker or web site.
Some say we give up our privacy when we expect Google or Facebook to be free. Data is how these companies make money; without our info, they'd have to charge us another way. But Marcos Menendez doesn't see it like that. He admires Google, but thinks what's ours should remain ours.
Menendez, who lives in Barcelona, is setting up an alternative data brokerage called The GoodData. It's a co-operative owned by its members—the people providing data—and it's designed to do good. Instead of selling information to make a profit for itself or its members, it plans to send proceeds to Kiva, a nonprofit that facilitates peer-to-peer lending in the developing world.
"Data is a new source of wealth, the same way there was agriculture, oil, and machinery," Menendez says. "You lose control of that data now. My thought was to create a company that helps us enjoy the ownership of that data."
The GoodData is based around the popular open-source browser extension Disconnect. When it's launched in the next couple of months, you'll be able to block off companies tracking you around the web, then choose what you want to share with the broker. Menendez will then sell your data and reinvest the return.
As well as being a user, you'll also be able to become a full member, contributing to development and making strategic decisions. "You'll not only manage the data, but also the company that manages the data," Menendez says.
The GoodData is one of several services helping Internet-users re-assert their privacy. Or, at least gain something for the loss of it. Another new startup, called Datacoup, is offering $8 a month for access to your data stream, along with a choice over what you want to sell. Maybe after years of others making dough from our data, we're finally about to take some for ourselves.