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Monetizing privacy

I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of capitalizing on the privacy issue.  There are those of us for whom lack of privacy isn’t a big deal – me, for instance.  I always thought people who worry about lack of privacy have something to hide.  My own life is completely innocent (darn it!) – to someone looking at me from the outside, it looks completely boring.

Obviously, I like to think I have more fun and lead a more rewarding life than the average Joe (but then all the people named Joe that I know of are way above average), but all that excitement is between my ears and not lower down – I mean my wallet, what did you think I meant, eh?

In any event, the privacy debate has polarized people into two camps: the vast majority who are fairly worried about it (the same majority whose heart skips a beat if they see flashing lights in their rear-view mirror), and the tiny minority for whom the whole problem is a non-issue or, at worst, only a minor inconvenience.

But aren’t there any enterprising folks out there who are willing to monetize their privacy?  The closest they’ve come to is to be willing to exchange their privacy for some dubious benefit that is not guaranteed.  Chris Taylor, in his excellent article, has some great examples.

However, here is my proposition: what if the government mandated – and enforced – total privacy by default?  Any company wanting any info has to pay the individual – but only if the person voluntarily contracted with the company.

A company spends money collecting data and pushing ads at you because there is value in doing so.  Right now, the only people collecting the loot are the intermediary channels.  Why shouldn’t we – the privacy targets – collect some too?

What if no ONE has the right to collect our information for ANY purpose unless (a) we allow them to do so voluntarily and (b) the collecting company pays us?  What if they can’t resell our info unless the same rules apply?

What if every company is required by law to offer compensation in cash (not in kind) in return for private information – compensation that the individual is free to accept, reject, or negotiate?

After all, what is at stake here is our own personal brand.  Which brings me to a really revolutionary idea: given that everything I proposed above won’t come to pass (because we have a bunch of wet noodles for our government), why not incorporate ourselves?  John Doe, LLC.  Then, our name becomes a brand that receives legal protection.  No collection of data or usage without our permission.  And we give permission only if we are paid!

Ergo, problem solved.

(Learned counsel will probably shoot holes in this theory.)

I’d love to let some company put a device on my car and track my every movement – as long as they pay me a price that I set.

After all, I don’t violate any traffic laws (not a single moving violation ever since I started driving, for about 25 years now! touch wood, touch wood), don’t visit people I shouldn’t, or go to places that are questionable.

I have nothing to fear.  Bring on the money!


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