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Consumers could license their data

News, 28 January 2016

LONDON: Encouraging consumers to license their personal data in return for credits that can be exchanged for products and subscriptions could be a way to get around ad blocking.

That's the premise of a London start-up, one of whose founders described the rise in ad blocking as the sign of "a growing consumer backlash against irrelevant, intrusive digital advertising cluttering up their browsing experience and surreptitiously following them around the net".

Nicholas Oliver explained to TechCrunch that the origins of People.io actually lay elsewhere, noting how a range of factors, including adblocking, have been inflating the direct value of a person's attention.

"The 'ah-ha' moment was when I looked at how data ownership could be combined with the attention economy," he said.

So the company proposes to allow people to opt in, deciding what data they want to license and how it can be used, with the freedom to delete it at any time; they can also decide who gets their time and attention.

"We believe that putting the consumer in control of their own data, fiercely protecting how their data is used to ensure privacy and rewarding them for the data they are willing to share helps create a fairer value exchange for the consumer and therefore greater engagement," Oliver asserted.

And it is the reward aspect that makes People.io different from other ventures in this area, he argued.

"With our platform your reward is instant and transparent," he said. "Every time you share or enhance your data you are rewarded in the form of credits, so immediately we build the association between information and reward.

"We also declare upfront the value associated to each question we're asking the user, or what a brand is willing to 'pay' for that moment of their attention."

He suggested that an average user, accepting one ad message a day, could earn enough credits in a month to pay for, say, a music streaming subscription.

It's certainly a far cry from the approach of Sprint, the US telco, which is offering $5 off wireless bills to certain customers who agree to view more ads on their smartphones.

Doug Smith, director of Sprint's prepaid product marketing, described it as "a very low-risk way to understand how this type of value proposition would go over with our customers".

Data sourced from TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff