If you don't have extra money or time to give to charity, a new startup suggests donating something else: yourself. More specifically, your (anonymized) shopping data.
Data Does Good, a benefit corporation, lets users choose a nonprofit to support and link up their Amazon shopping history. The startup's system automatically strips away personal information, then aggregates it with other data for sale. Each year, your chosen nonprofit gets a $15 donation.
"We both had experience working with consumer data and knew how valuable online shopping information had become," says Scott Steinberg, who co-founded Data Does Good with fellow Stanford Graduate School of Business grad Eric Peter.
"We also noticed that most consumers weren’t aware they owned this information or that it could be used to their benefit," he says. "So, we started talking about finding ways to help people take ownership over their data and help them see their shopping data as a valuable resource, rather than something to be feared."
You "own" your digital shopping data the same way that you own traditional paper receipts from physical stores, but since online data can easily be aggregated, it has more value. Virtually any app or website you use collects data about you—for better or worse—but Amazon, as the largest online retailer, has particularly valuable data for any company that wants to sell anything.
Donors who participate can choose any U.S.-based nonprofit to support. "What we love about Data Does Good is that people from all income levels across the country can donate their shopping data towards a cause they personally support," he says. "So, we decided early on that we would allow people to donate to any U.S.-based nonprofit, so long as it is in good standing."
With mass participation, the model could dramatically increase funding for nonprofits while donors' bank accounts remain unchanged.
"The interesting thing about consumer data is that its value multiplies as the amount of data increases," says Steinberg. "So, as more and more people donate, all of the individual donations become more valuable. If our platform proves popular enough, we think donations of Amazon shopping history alone could create tens of millions in additional funding for nonprofits each year."