The internet has long been a consummate environment for collecting immense amounts of data from large swathes of the population. With the increased use of cookies and other data mining tools, the internet is, essentially, a bottomless trove of useful data. This collected information is highly prized by companies and marketers, who then use insights from the data to more accurately target audiences. As website visitors devote more of their attention towards obtaining control over the flow of their personal information, however, the traditional paradigm for data monetization is shifting to the user’s advantage.

The advent of newer frameworks for decentralization and disintermediation via blockchain implies that individuals will be able to ensure that their personal information is held securely – only accessible at their discretion. Instead of sitting back and allowing personal data to be used as a for-profit science experiment, users can now make use of tools that help ensure their online habits are kept away from prying eyes.

The Growing Cracks in the Wall

Between computers, mobile devices and now the Internet of Things, the sheer amount of data circling through the web is expanding with each passing day. It is estimated that 16.1 zettabytes (nearly the equivalent of 16.7 trillion gigabytes) worth of data was created in 2016 alone, with projections anticipating a tenfold increase by 2025. While the movement to bring the entire world online has brought numerous benefits to consumers and businesses alike, it has also raised questions about the methods behind information security and how personal data is treated.

At present, it is incumbent upon any website to offer a detailed privacy policy illustrating how it collects and utilizes user data. This is especially true if the company is responsible for storing particularly sensitive information or personally identifiable data. However, as high-profile breaches such as the Equifax debacle have shown, user data hosted on company servers is nothing short of vulnerable.

To combat the issues of controlling and securing personal data, companies are introducing new services designed to help individuals control their own data, and more importantly, consider how it is shared. One such advance has come to support researchers within STEM-related fields. Matryx, a blockchain-based platform, helps its users gain recognition for their contributions, even enabling them to share their progress with other users on a monetizable basis. This solution is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to empowering users to exercise greater control over their data.

Harnessing the Power of Individuality

Blockchain has the potential to uproot even the most entrenched gatekeepers in big data, and many companies utilizing this technology work towards diminishing the role of intermediaries. In the data collection space, VALID is developing a system whereby users’ identities are confirmed, enabling them to transact more securely while also overseeing the collection and storage of their personal data in a highly encrypted fashion. Furthermore, the platform grants users the ability to manage who accesses their data via a built-in marketplace, enabling them to sell their data streams to publishers, advertisers and other entities.

Many web-based platforms also monetize user-generated data.  This is especially common in the online recruitment space, with companies like LinkedIn and freelancing sites like Fiverr or Upwork hosting user profiles, reviews and related feedback. Enter Dock.io, a service that enables users to exert control over their respective professional profiles in one centralized location. Not only do user profiles become more trustworthy thanks to third party validation, but they also go back into the hands of the users who created them. This effectively supports the individual while reducing the stranglehold that many platforms have on user data.

A Shift Towards Improved Ownership

Although companies currently have the upper hand when it comes to user-generated data, emerging solutions are putting the power of personal information back in the hands of users themselves. By offering better security for sensitive information and greater mechanisms for verification and authentication, these new frameworks give individuals the ability to monetize their own data and prevent it from being sold or mined without their consent. This changing view towards personal data is bringing about a host of improvements that ultimately put data back in the hands of its owners and creators. With these new solutions, days of rampant transmission of personal information may be numbered.

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