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How the buying and selling of your personal information works

A company will pay up to $10 (around 8 euros) for access to your social network accounts, credit card transaction records, and other personal information, and will sell insights gleaned from that data to companies looking for information on consumer behavior.

Datacoup, one of the first companies to offer people money in exchange for their personal data, has finished a closed trial of its service and is now opening it to anyone.

Datacoup will pay up to $10 (around 8 euros) for access to your social network accounts, credit card transaction records, and other personal information, and will sell insights gleaned from that data to companies looking for information on consumer behavior. Talks are in progress with major consumer brands and financial institutions, says Matt Hogan, CEO of the startup.

Whether an individual user gets the full $10 a month or not depends on which streams of data he’s willing to share. Options include debit card and credit card transactions, and data from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Datacoup won’t provide raw data to companies. Instead, it will provide results of analyses performed on that data. For example, a company might ask Datacoup to provide information on how often women in a certain age group mention coffee on Facebook on the same day they use their credit card in a coffee shop.

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The value of privacy

Donald Waldman, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado (USA), says services like Datacoup may provide useful insights about the perceived value of privacy. “The fact that people do value their information seems obvious, but the question is, how much do they value it?” he says.

Data streams like those that Datacoup collects could turn out to be worth more than $10 a month. Tens of thousands of people already receive $100 (80 euros) a month from a company called Luth Research in return for very detailed data from their smartphones, tablets, and PCs.

Hogan expects the price that Datacoup offers people for their data to change as his company assesses the supply of customer information and demand from companies willing to pay for analyses of that data. The market will decide,” he says.

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