Privacy As A Commodity?

It appears that an interesting perspective on the privacy debate ~ that consumers will ultimately have more control over their private information by leveraging its value is finding voice on a commercial platform. The NYTs reports that the founders of Bynamite, Ginsu Yoon and Ian Wilkes, see the issue as “. . . not about privacy protection but about giving users control over this valuable resource — their information. . .”

This debate rages between those bemoan our ”loss of privacy”, generally “more experienced” (read older persons) who remember a “time” when an individual had some control over the circumstances that shared personal information. The other end of the spectrum includes those “less experienced” (read younger persons) who seem to share the intimate details of their daily lives with anyone who clicks on the right links. Both are interesting points of view and both are equally valid especially in a culture that is becoming more digital by the day.

Mr. Yoon suggests that “There should be an economic opportunity on the consumer side” a position that I wholeheartedly endorse. The real value to the collectors and distributors of all of this personal data, e.g., search engines (Google), location based services (foursquare), among others is that personal information that we all so freely share. Larry Downes discussed the privacy challenges in The Laws of Disruption, suggesting that the “. . . the final step in resolving the privacy problem is to separate the emotional value of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) from its economic value. There is a simple solution to the privacy problem, and it begins by recognizing that information is a commodity.”

That idea clearly resonates. If personal information is so valuable to those who traffic in it then the collectors “buyers” of that information should be willing to compensate the users (sellers) in an appropriate. What seems to be missing is the platform to facilitate those transactions. Perhaps Bynamite has the beginnings of a solution.

As Mr. Yoon suggests, “I may be wrong about the product and our company. “But I’m absolutely convinced that the direction is right, giving people a way to identify and use this store of value that is their personal information.”

I agree.

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