ALLOW Lets You Pay For Privacy In The UK: Can it Work in the US? [INTERVIEW]

By Katie Kindelan Comment

As the war over online privacy and advertising continues to rage in the U.S., our neighbors across the pond are moving on. A new service just launched in the United Kingdom promises to “spell the beginning of the end for junk marketing,” and just might change the direction of online privacy in the process. We spoke with co-founder Justin Basini to find out more about the model and whether something similar could succeed here at home.

The free service, called ALLOW, lets consumers see which marketing lists they are on, how their data is being used, and then registers them with England’s opt-out services, putting an end to the marketing calls, emails and junk mail that come from purchasing and searching for products online.

What sets the service apart from similar U.S.-based sites is that it also finds which lists the consumers are happy to be on, and then sells their data to advertisers directly, splitting the profit with the consumer.

The startup is the brainchild of Basini, the former head of marketing and customer initiative management at Capital One, and marketing solutions veteran Howard Huntley.

“We’re trying to create a transparent market for consumer data,” said Basini in describing the site. “Today, consumers don’t know who holds their data, who’s trading their data or how much it’s worth. The result is consumers worried about their privacy and frustrated by misplaced marketing.”

The idea, as Basini describes it, is for the consumer to be able to go into the marketplace and say, ‘I’m really interested in purchasing a new TV so, for the next month, send me all the information you have, and then I don’t want to hear from you again.’

ALLOW communicates your wishes to advertisers who can choose to purchase your data, at a price. The more data the consumer allows, the more rewards they will see.

The model, says Basini, puts consumers in control of their data, prevents an overload of ads, and allows consumers to skip the legwork of searching online and in-stores for the best deal. In turn, advertisers have a valuable tool to more efficiently target those consumers most interested in the specific product they’re selling.

Responding to our questions of how the site will prevent advertisers from storing user data for future use, Basini said the site will abide by the UK’s “contract of sale” that dictates time limits on storing data

Basini was also quick to note that ALLOW automatically assumes they do not have users’ permission to sell their data. The site also sets time limits on users’ data permission, and does not allow users to login via Facebook or Twitter in order to avoid having to share users’ information with those sites.

Advertisers in the U.S. who have been resistant to regulation, instead preferring their own self-regulated model, may find appeal in this model’s appreciation of the value of data. Data, of course, is what the advertisers are after, the magic bullet that allows them to effectively target their desired demographic.

But will wary, American consumers be willing to work with data services to improve the effectiveness of a brand’s targeting?

Basini, for one, thinks so.

“This concept of data storage is universal,” he said. “The next big revolution of the Internet is connectivity of data, and it can either happen with consumers in control or out-of-control.”

“The better model is for consumers to gain control of their data, and see a benefit. That’s ALLOW.”