Can we please end the debate about selling our personal data?

by Michael Brunnbauer, 2013-11-15

In fiscal year 2012, data broker Acxiom made $1.13 billion revenue and a profit of $77.26 million with a database of 500 million consumers (see

This is a revenue of $2,26 and a profit of $0,15 per consumer for a whole year.

$2,26 revenue per year for data that will influence the most critical situations in our lifes - like getting insurance, a loan or a job.

Let that sink in and then think about it the other way round: What would your potential insurer, creditor or employer pay for information about you and at what price would you sell it to him?

You got nothing to hide? Then take the few dollars and make life for people that have something to hide but deserve an insurance, loan or job anyway a lot more difficult. Maybe you will also find out that in fact you had something to hide. Your perception of the world can differ greatly from that of other people - especially if they use statistics.

Now startups like Datacoup tell us that we deserve more for our data while promising to pass it on anonymized. Who are they trying to fool? Only us or also themselves?

It should be clear that anonymized data will only make a fraction of the small amount above. And where does the data for Datacoups business model come from? From electronic social and financial accounts. What keeps the involved social networks and banks from selling the same data in anonymized form?

Please - let's end the debate about selling our personal data. This idea was dead on arrival. A debate about donating our personal data in anonymized form would be more appropriate.