I've read and written ad nauseum about privacy - particularly within the context of a social network.
But what if, instead of finding ways to protect customer information, a company wants to help customers be more aware of what they're sharing?
Bynamite is banking on the idea taking off.
The San Francisco-based startup's co-founders, Ginsu Yoon and Ian Wilkes, formerly business and engineering managers at Second Life, told The New York Times:
It's not about privacy protection but about giving users control over this valuable resource - their information.
As such, the company offers to make those transactions more transparent -- through a Web browser plug in. The software monitors what e-commerce sites and social networks assume to know about a user, compiles that on a single Web page, and gives the user the chance to see how those companies see him or her. The user then has the opportunity to modify that picture - by deleting certain advertisers, or opting out of programs, perhaps.
The more control the user has, the more efficiently information flows between the user and the advertisers, which should benefit both in the long run. Bynamite's founders say they see a day when a user can get discounts or micropayments based on her interest profile.
The idea isn't exactly new to Carnegie Mellon's Acquisti, an associate professor of information technology and public policy. He and two colleagues presented a paper last year on the price of privacy. According to The New York Times, it is awaiting publication. In "What Is Privacy Worth?" Acquisti, Leslie John and George Loewenstein looked at the value individuals place on their private information. According to the abstract:
Individuals assign markedly different values to the privacy of their data depending on the order in which they consider different offers for that data, or whether they consider the amount of money they would accept to disclose otherwise private information, or the amount of money they would pay to protect otherwise public information.
If the valuation on privacy varies as much as Aquisti and his colleagues say it does, then no wonder Bynamite's premise sounds so good. What better way to maximize the benefit from personal information than by giving the user control? Otherwise, the advertisers are spending more money on ads that are targeted to the wrong people, and the users spend more time than they want deleting irrelevant, uninteresting offers.,