What if You Could Control — and Sell — Your Own Data?

New startup aims to empower consumers to leverage their own data and disrupt the data brokerage business social media advertising model.

It was a beautifully designed scroll page with high resolution images and sales copy espousing the benefits of a new social media platform called PRSM. And for just a moment I thought, is this…? Nah.

Except that it is real. Satire aside, there were nine tech companies that cooperated in sharing personal user information with the US government and Google recently acknowledged that there should be no expectation of privacy for emails traveling through its servers.

Sounds like we have no expectation of privacy on the internet at all.

While on the one hand there’s the issue of Internet privacy and government surveillance, our data is being used in other ways too. Indeed, sites like Google and Facebook leverage user data for advertising dollars, feeding us personalized — or semantic — ads based on the data cookie crumbs we leave around the Web.

Enter Datacoup, the creators of the GetPRSM parody and the startup developing a data exchange wherein consumers are empowered to leverage the value of their own data by selling it themselves. According to Matt Hogan, Datacoup Founder and CEO, this type of personal data exchange hands users the keys to their data, disrupting the black box of data brokerage.

“The FTC is already investigating the data brokers,” he said. “We want to put pressure on merchants — who are essentially funding the brokers — to team up with consumers in a two-sided [data] exchange.”

Here’s how it works: When you log in for the first time you’ll be asked what you do with your data and taken through steps to get all of your social and financial data in one place. Hogan says social and financial data are valuable by themselves, even more valuable when combined. Once all of your data is aggregated, it is transformed into infographics focused on five data sets: spending, demographic, location, relationship statuses and overall social media usage. Once the data is all in one place, Hogan says users can control what data to sell — or not sell — and to whom. The goal, said Hogan is consumer empowerment, which also requires an educational process.

“No one walks around thinking about their data,” he said. “But when people see the visualizations, they begin to see just how valuable their data are.”

Datacoup is planning on a beta launch soon and is poised to be the first company to provide a marketplace for personal data exchange. Check it out.