by Marcos Menendez, Director of TheGoodData
After many months of planning and hard work from the team, earlier this week we launched the world’s first data co-operative service. For the first time, this will enable internet users to take control of their online privacy and manage who can access their browsing history data.
This is an incredibly personal issue for many people and has been very controversial in the UK press recently with regard to how much data social media companies hold and what they do with it.
It is also something that the founder of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee said that we need to create a ‘Magna Carta’ for the Internet. He has also spoken of the need for people to reclaim ownership of their data and that people should start making use of their data for their own benefit.
But do people even realise that there is a problem?
A recent Nesta supported study ‘Personal Information Management Services: An analysis of an emerging market’ showed that this market will be worth £16.5bn – making up to 1.5% of the UK economy. To put this in context, £19bn a year is the estimated by the United Nations to solve world hunger. We are not saying that we expect this to happen through TheGoodData, but it is evidence on how valuable data can be, and the kind of social challenges that can be addressed with this value if properly managed.
Currently many internet users are unaware that whilst they browse, hundreds of invisible tracking signals are running in the background. These signals are processed by data brokers that infer your socio-demographics and lifestyle which are sold to advertisers, profiting from your data without your knowledge or ability to influence whom it is sold on to.
After the American phenomenon ‘Black Friday’, customers may feel that they have stumbled upon a real bargain that they would say to themselves ‘I would have bought that anyway’.
It is more likely however that they may have seen an advert and thought, ‘how did they know I was interested in this product?’. What’s even more striking is that this data can actually be used against you. For example, customers can be charged more for travel accommodation if they have visited the site from specific geographies or devices that are used in average by wealthier people. The same could have been true for some consumer products hailed on ‘Black Friday’.
Owning your own data
TheGoodData aims to change this practice, raising awareness amongst consumers that their data has a value that they can use to support good causes, whilst enhancing the security of their own online activities. TheGoodData software blocks requests from the invisible tracking sites so they don’t know what you have done online. Only if users then give consent, will TheGoodData trade a small part of personal data anonymously. Half of this money collected will be given to developing countries. The other part of the funding will be used to pay for operations at TheGoodData – which in turn will be a company fully owned by its users.
This is an issue of owning your personal data. Fundamentally, nobody should have access to your data without consent or be able to make money from this in exchange for nothing.
An average user can have around 1700 invisible threats per day tracking their online history. For example, even if you’ve not logged-in to social media but if there is a ‘like’ button on a webpage, then the social media company can access the data and can sell that on.
TheGoodData app takes just a few seconds to download from the Chrome web store here and you can view a demonstration here 
thegooddata logo horizontal