Data privacy and “owning your own data” online is a rather hard concept to get across to the average person. But increasingly it’s a fundamental part of our existence online. One or two startups have tried to crack this idea. Datacoup in New York has a data-exchange platform for consumers to aggregate and sell their own anonymous personal data for instance. Now Citizenme has launched an iPhone app today that attempts to let consumers see all the data held about them by online companies, in a way that is easy to digest.
Working with researchers at Cambridge University Psychometric Centre, Citizenme has built an algorithm to draw psychometric conclusions from that data. The app will tell you if you Facebook posts or tweets appear “conservative” or not, on a sliding scale, or perhaps if you are an assertive or a spontaneous sort of person. Stuff like that.
Additionally, users will get a notification and a link to the right place in the settings to change their profile controls on Facebook or other services. And the app is supposed to be able to alert you when terms of service are changed on privacy settings of apps — something most social services hate to make very obvious, of course.
Eventually the self-funded startup, launched by entrepreneur StJohn Deakins, hopes to launch an exchange, enabling users to take control over how their data is shared, either altruistically (medical research) or commercially (such as with advertisers). Apps for Android, Firefox, Ubuntu, Windows and Chrome are also planned.
I tried it out on my Facebook profile and was astounded to learn I was pretty much 50/50 on most psychometric levels. I must be more stable than I thought – or at least, that’s what Facebook thinks I am…
Unfortunately, once downloaded and played with, the app somewhat loses its appeal. Okay, so it tells me a little about myself that I didn’t know before, and gives me access to privacy settings on Facebook, etc. But it doesn’t feel like the average consumer is going to drop everything to call their friends about this. It will need to do more to hold my interest in future.
Still, it’s early days for this concept, and increasing data leaks and privacy breaches may have a drip-drip effect enough to awake the average person from their slumber about how valuable their personal data is and how they should control it.