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Jessica Leber

A View from Jessica Leber

Brooklyn Developer Offers Up His Personal Data on Kickstarter

A man data mined himself to fund an app that helps others sell their own personal data.

  • May 9, 2013

Software developer Federico Zannier has data-mined himself, and now he’s raising money on Kickstarter to build an iPhone app and Chrome browser extension so that others can easily do the same.

Fork over $2 to the campaign and you get a day’s worth of the 1.5 gigabytes of text and 30,000 photos he’s collected from his online activities since February. That means a fun-filled 24-hours of websites, screenshots, webcam images, cursor movements, app logs, and GPS locations he’s tracked. 

Is it a bargain? No, not at all—and that’s his point.

Today, companies on the web track him and everyone else and make billions selling the data. By violating his own privacy, as he puts it, he hopes that he can collect some of this value.

If more people do the same, I’m thinking marketers could just pay us directly for our data. It might sound crazy, but so is giving all our data away for free,” he writes.

Zannier is not the first to dream up such an idea (see “A Dollar for Your Data”). One problem is that the data isn’t worth much on its own to marketers. They want to buy in bulk. That’s why Facebook and Google can make so much money. They can group people together that marketers want to reach.

So though its hard to imagine what his data is good for on its own, already with 68 backers he’s exceeded his modest funding goal of $500 for his project. If he’s successful in getting lots of people to use his data mining app, though, maybe he’ll become the next of the big data brokers.

MIT Technology Review is now exploring the issues Zannier raises in this month’s Business Report series “Big Data Gets Personal.” These articles discuss one important point that gets lost when people like Zannier dicuss their dissatisifaction with giving away their data for free: Though people are giving up more of their data than ever before, they are also getting more and more value back (see “The Data Made Me Do It.”).

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