Some companies steal your data, but this one will pay you for it

In a world where data privacy is increasingly prized by consumers who have gotten tired of watching companies steal and take advantage of their data in exchange for using popular apps and services, a new idea along these lines has started to take hold. Certain companies, instead of stealing user data or asking them to hand it over for free, are now offering the tantalizing prospect of actually compensating users for that exchange.

For one idea of how this can work in practice, consider SavvyShares — a new consumer-owned survey panel, built around capturing consumers’ opinions and data through a survey panel model. According to an SEC filing, users are compensated in exchange for allowing behavior data to be tracked “through software installed to a Member’s phone, tablet or computer (our ‘App’), data obtained from self-reported surveys and interviews, behavior data obtained from third parties with a member’s consent, and any other social or related data.”

Got it? Rather than gobble up data from unaware users, or ask them in the fine print of a terms of service agreement to hand it over for free, participating in the SavvyShares arrangement will give you shares in the company (as well as the potential for dividend payments) in exchange for the length and complexity of surveys you complete, as well as additional shares for allowing the company to track your digital activity through its app.

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“Consumer data will increase in value as privacy policies limit large data collectors from accessing and using personal online information,” SavvyShares explains on its website. “Data sharing is now in your control with SavvyShares, the only member-owned community for information intelligence empowering you with proprietary privacy to confidently contribute your own valuable data and rewarding you with ownership shares, dividends and driving global good.”

Luth Research, a consumer survey business, launched SavvyShares in 2020. The app, mentioned above, runs in the background on your mobile device and collects certain data as you engage in web activity.

To be sure, this isn’t much of a practical or long-term solution to the problem of how to better promote data privacy around the web. If the issue is that sites, apps, and digital services consume, steal, ask for, and take too much of our data, simply compensating consumers for the trouble doesn’t correct that imbalance. However, I’m all for more clarity around how consumers are treated in the digital space — to that end, this kind of arrangement with SavvyShares is intriguing, if a bit novel. You can head here to read more about what data the company collects, which includes things like “usage statistics about your online browsing activity. When you browse the internet as you normally would and you share things like how many searches you do and how long you spend on a web page.”

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.