Young Innovators

The Data on Data Brokers

This series of ‘Young Innovator Spotlights’ has been inspired by some dynamic young thinkers that we have recently had the pleasure of collaborating with at Meeco. The connected world gives them greater power of speech and scale of communication, but it is also forcing a re-definition of their rights, identity and privacy. This series will highlight the work of these ‘Young Innovators’, who are using innovation and creativity to challenge the status quo. 

Wilfried N’Guessman, Jonathan Svärdh and Stefan Normann are Digital Data Strategy students at Hyper Island, Stolkholm. They have a shared interest in the collection of data and its impacts on humanity.

For a recent project, they set about to uncover ‘the hidden truths of connectivity’ on the internet and visualise it in an interesting and meaningful way.

They developed a formula that calculates the value of each ‘lead’ paid by advertisers. A ‘lead’ is advertiser-speak for a person, which to the advertiser is a neat package of personal information that has been covertly scraped from our travels around the internet; online shopping, Googling our ailments, planning a holiday etc. Some ‘leads’ are more expensive than others, depending of the nature and depth of personal information collected.

With a high degree of analytical precision they unpicked the monetary value of the different types of leads, generating an estimate on the cost of various data sets to each industry, should the money be paid to the consumer rather than the data broker. The results (which are based on the United States) are surprising.

For example Will says that “The Finance sector would pay $52 to access such information as your age, if you have specific diseases, if you’re planning on buying a house and if you’ve recently browsed the Internet for financial solutions.”

Average CPL

Screenshot taken from ‘How Much is Your Data Really Worth’

This insight led them to question why the industry couldn’t ‘flip the model’ and reward us for sharing our information on a permission basis, rather than allowing data brokers to trade on our identities without our knowledge or consent.

The result is this visualisation and website: ‘How Much is Your Data Really Worth‘.

Here’s what they had to say about it.

Why did you choose this subject?

There is so much dialogue around the positive effects of technology and digitalization—so what our group we wanted to investigate was what the downside to big data is and how companies get hold of information about us.

We think people deserve to be aware of how their personal data is being traded and used by corporations.

We also knew that it would have been a nice touch to partner with a business that operates in this field. A lot of the services we use on a daily basis make all their earnings from advertising so a service like Meeco really has the potential to be a game changer.

We think people deserve to be aware of how their personal data is being traded and used by corporations. Mostly, we want to empower people by making them realize the value of their data.

What was your process?

We settled on visualizing this story and giving it context.

We looked up what valuations different types of data points have. And when you see these lists of diseases, social situations and other very personal information being sold and bought without your consent as a citizen, it sparks your interest. It also makes you very suspicious about these new digital lifestyles and habits we have.

Mostly, we want to empower people by making them realize the value of their data.

After mapping the price of personal data from data brokers, we discussed how to show these numbers so that people could grasp what we were trying to say. So we came up with a context in which to re-frame this information.

We know that people are—for the most part—insensitive to the notion that their data is being traded. They either don’t care or don’t see the value of owning their personal data. Our question then was: How might we show people how valuable they really are to the companies that are advertising to you on a daily basis?

Our hypothesis is that there has to be a better way for businesses to reach consumers, and perhaps the answer to that question is by flipping the model. By going from B2C (Business To Customer) to C2B (Customer To Business) as Meeco itself suggests.

After collecting our data points we had a clear picture of which target groups marketers value and—through some more sourcing—we found out how much money different industries are paying to convert ‘prospects’ into customers. We mapped Cost Per Leads per industry.

Last step was to put all of these nodes in relationship to each other and show the dependencies.

Has your research effected the way you do things online now?

Yes, we watch out more for what types of ads are targeted at us every day on our feeds and favorite sites. We reflect on where they might have gotten information about us that led to the creation of that ad, and us being targeted as a potential audience. We ask more questions and try to trace back their steps.

We expect a better balance in the power exchange between corporations and consumers in the future.

Unfortunately, we can’t change our digital life because most sites require you to accept cookies, otherwise they won’t work optimally. Your whole social media experience can only exist if you accept to be tracked, otherwise you can’t even log into your accounts. So businesses, marketers and brands kind of have the upper hand here.

We expect a better balance in the power exchange between corporations and consumers in the future.

What do you think the future will be like, say, for your children? (If you decide to have any) Do you think privacy will still be an issue?

If you look at the past, marketing and commerce trends have come and gone. For a couple of years now, Content Marketing has been the thing that all marketers want to work with. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was the big trend before that.

We see that companies like Meeco will lead a new type of marketing where the tables are turned and consumers allow companies to communicate with them, if and when they choose to. We think that’s a fairer type of marketing. It’s also a lot more profitable for all parties. Companies don’t have to waste their marketing budget and risk upsetting people by violating their private space, and consumers won’t receive as many intrusive messages. Some of that marketing dollar could be spent on providing a better service or higher quality product instead.

We see that companies like Meeco will lead a new type of marketing where the tables are turned and consumers allow companies to communicate with them, if and when they choose to.

Privacy might still be an issue, but we’re the generation that transitioned to the Internet era. The current generation are born into it.

All we know is that it’s a matter that needs to be taken more seriously today.

The next blog in this series will feature Aviva Killian, resident intern at Meeco, ‘existential detective’ and Philosophy student at the University of Sydney.

If you would like to nominate a ‘Young Innovator’ to be featured in this series, feel free to drop me a line or send them my way :)  Penelope Hogan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *