This app lets you make easy money by selling personal data to marketers

man on laptop at data center


Every second you interact with your digital devices, you create
data. What you’re clicking, liking, sharing, and posting masks a
wealth of information about you and your habits that companies
and marketing firms would love to know so that they can better
target you.

A new app called DataWallet, which launched on
June 9th, wants people to opt into sharing their data (the app
maker sells it to marketing firms) so they can make a quick buck
on the information they inadvertently already provide.

The unusual service takes the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”
attitude to data-snooping.

multibillion-dollar data brokerage industry
operates largely
in the shadows, culling information using everything from
registration records at the DMV to Facebook pages – and pretty
much anything that resides in the public domain. It’s all a
little bit creepy.

“The only way to make sure we are empowered in the process
is by bringing something to market that is better,” founder and
CEO of DataWallet, Serafin Lion Engel, tells Tech

datawallet screen 1

The set-up process begins with deciding what data you want
to share. Members can give access to their Facebook, Twitter,
Instagram, and Pinterest accounts, and fine-tune the settings for
each if they don’t, for example, want to include their hometown
or work history.

DataWallet, which was founded in 2015, aggregates this data
from all parties, strips it of any personally identifiable
information (such as name, email, and phone number), and
condenses it into analytics reports. Companies can then buy those
reports from DataWallet.

Users turn a profit on every report sold that includes
their data, which stretches back to the creation of their social
accounts. P

ayouts vary from $1 to $50 and occur at a
frequency of every two months or so, according to Engel. The more
accounts you link to DataWallet, the higher the likelihood that
your data will be purchased.

The average payout is $10. Engel expects that number to
rise as more users join the app, making the service more valuable
to companies and marketing firms who will then purchase the

The service is only worthwhile for consumers if they’re
making money on it (which requires lots of buyers), but the
buyers will only purchase reports if the service attracts a
massive user base.

It’s a classic chicken-versus-egg
conundrum, though Engel insists buyers will be attracted to the
depth of DataWallet’s data. Typically, these firms have access to
public data, which users can control in settings.

DataWallet unlocks new, more interesting
information, such as what users are talking about online, when
they’re online, and what they care about.

“It’s an unprecedented way for you to understand your
consumers,” Engel says.

datawallet screen2

More than 20,000 people have joined the waitlist for the
app, which launched on Apple’s App Store on June 10.

In the future, the company hopes to integrate other
data-centric services that go beyond social. Users might
volunteer data on their Amazon Prime purchases or Netflix
account, in exchange for discounts or better

DataWallet has a long way to go before it can make any
promises regarding security. It currently uses “state-of-the-art
encryption” to protect users’ data, according to Engel, and is
working to implement more advanced measures.

Of course, opting in to share your data doesn’t prevent
other data brokers from also taking it. Engel hopes the company’s
intimate relationships with users provides a competitive
advantage over other data brokers, so they might one day be
forced to cooperate with users in order to stay in business. It’s
all about baby steps.

“It’s not just a way more ethical way of going about it,”
Engel says, “it is the only ethical way to go about it.”

from SAI