Big Data comes in many forms. But the dirty big secret about Big Data – though it is no secret among data professionals – is that Big Data is often personal data. Companies collect and data-mine it for marketing. And now some entrepreneurs are coming up with a new twist: Offering to buy personal data from consumers, in turn for perks such as frequent-flier miles. But how many potential customers of these services are aware of the possible security risks?
Buying and selling personal data, directly or indirectly, has become central to the business model of today's commercial Web. Popular free services, from Google search to Facebook membership and beyond, are all essentially based on the principle that "you are the product."
This product – your search habits, buying habits, friend connections, and much much more – is sold to these firms' business customers, primarily for marketing purposes.
Now a new variation on this theme is starting to emerge. Some companies are proposing to buy specific personal information from consumers. They will in turn sell it to other companies, in turn for perks or advantages for the consumers.
A prospective leader in this new industry is Reputation.com, founded by Michael Fertik in 2007. According to Fertik, the company intends to launch a personal-informatin sharing feature. He cites airline frequent flier miles as a service example.
Airlines, says Fertik, have trouble gaining information about their customers' incomes. In turn for this information, they could be eager to offer frequent-flier miles or related perks to customers whose incomes suggest heavy use of air travel.
Another observer of this emergent industry, Shane Green of Personal.com, sees auto leasing as a promising target for this approach: Businesses in this sector would like to know when prospective customers are about to enter the market.
Other industry observers are skeptical. And consumers are showing growing concern for their data privacy and security. Before becoming either a buyer or seller of retail personal information, let GRT Corporation sit down with you to discuss the security implications, and how to protect yourself from costly data security breaches.