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What is the Data Dividend Project: Get Paid for Your Facebook Data

You give away so much of your personal data for free and Facebook earns massive profits off it. The Data Dividend Project pushes tech companies to pay to use or store your data. But is treating your-data-as-your-property the right approach?

data as your property means you can sell it
Illustration by Dark Cube Studio on Dribbble

A former candidate for 2020 presidential elections, Andrew Yang wants big tech platforms like Facebook and Google to pay its users for collecting, storing and using data. This effectively means that if his plans are successful, Facebook will have to pay you when you upload a post or Google will have to pay you to record your search and YouTube history to target ads.

This project, named the Data Dividend Project, fights to establish “your-data-as-your-property” right and give you the ability to control its use. It’s basically like allowing someone to track what you do on the Internet and push ads to you based on it or even sell that data while you get a few bucks in your wallet. In other words, you’re selling your privacy.

Sounds bad, right? But these tech companies have a ton of your personal data already, for free. This project will just push them to pay for it.

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“We’re completely outgunned by tech companies…”

Companies like Facebook have been so profitable just because they’ve your data. They know what you’re looking for on the Internet. Brands like Amazon invest heavily in Facebook ads because Facebook knows what you’re searching for. Through a little pixel called a web beacon.

Facebook asks website owners to install this little code on their websites so they can track what the user is doing on his site.

For example, if you search for “notebook” on Amazon, Facebook gets to know it through the pixel. Why would Amazon let Facebook add a pixel on their site? Because they get to target users with ads and access extensive demographic information of their visitors. Back to that example, when Facebook found you’re searching for notebooks, it’ll show you ads around notebooks from Amazon. Since you’re actually interested in buying notebooks, it’s highly likely that you end up buying it. Amazon gains from this.

Plus, Amazon can now see where it’s buyers live, what age group they belong to, what are their gender and more information. Because Facebook already has this data. This helps in personalising Amazon.

This has grown so much that Facebook records your data even if you haven’t ever had a Facebook or Instagram account.

That isn’t fair, right? But you can do nothing because they have permission to do it which you only gave them. Remember clicking accept button against their “terms and conditions”? These companies are too big for a regular user to fight against. And here’s where Yang’s Data Dividend Project comes to play. This project has a team of legal experts who takes your permission to deal with big tech companies and fight to establish data-as-your-property right on your behalf.

Andrew Yang told The Verge “We are completely outgunned by tech companies. We’re just presented with these terms and conditions. No one ever reads them. You just click on them and hope for the best. And unfortunately, the best has not happened.”

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the California Consumer Privacy Act

Yang’s Data Dividend Project works under the CCPA, short for the California Consumer Privacy Act. Introduced in early 2020, the CCPA grants netizens comprehensive data ownership and privacy rights like these:

  • Right to know whether a company has your personal details. And if it has, you can ask them what information was collected and how.
  • Right to delete any sort of personal information a company has. Except if the information has to be stored to complete a transaction with the user or to prevent fraudulent or illegal activity.
  • Right to opt-out from the business selling his/her personal information to third parties
  • Right of non-discrimination means you shouldn’t be treated differently if you choose to delete your personal information.

You can learn more about your rights under the CCPA here.

What does data as your property mean?

Illustration by author

Treating personal data as property means you can make money off it. It’s like you’re allowing Google to spy on what you do on the web and in return, you get paid. This is bad. But considering tech companies already track us so much for free, forcing them to pay a fee to do it might actually reduce this.

Well, that was my opinion. Some say data as a property isn’t the right approach because this incentivises users to sell away their privacy instead of protecting it.

A VICE article argues that this approach is pretty ineffective. Let’s assume Facebook pays $100 to a million users for their data each year. Now that means they have to spend $100 Million a year. In 2018, Facebook’s revenue was $70.7 billion and it had $54.8 billion on hand. Facebook even went through the $5 billion fine by the FTC easily in 2019. So $100 million is no big deal for them.

The VICE article mentions a dividend Alaska pays its residents, which is funded by the oil extraction industry. Why doesn’t data be treated that way? Take a share of the profit from tech giants like Facebook and give users an annual dividend.

I recommend reading VICE’s article on Andrew Yang’s Data Dividend Isn’t Radical, It’s Useless.

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selling privacy for money isn’t new

It’s not like someone’s data has never been treated like a property they can earn from. Facebook had an app called Study From Facebook that works on this concept. It pays you some bucks for answering some basic survey questions and hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for that.

There’s also a similar one from Google. It’s called Google Opinion Rewards. The app shows you some surveys and gives you money because “Your opinion is valuable”. This one has more than 10 million downloads on the Play Store alone.

Both of these apps have two things in common:

  • They reward users money to get their opinion or basically their personal data.
  • They pay a really low amount. A reviewer of the Facebook study app said he got just $5 in 4 weeks.
  • They don’t pay for data they’ve already collected.

The Facebook Study app is even restricted to some invited users, which means not anyone can download the app start earning they have to be one of the shortlisted people.

This means even if we get money from Facebook, the amount will be relatively low. Maybe $10 or even less. And that’s not worth your privacy.

What you’ve to do

When you sign up for the Data Dividend Project, you permit Yang’s team of legal experts to fight on your behalf to get this project implemented. This is one of the rights you get under the CCPA, to allow any third party to advocate any project related to your data.

And that’s why this Data Dividend Project is currently restricted to only Californians. But you if you live in the US, you can still sign up and they’ll notify you whenever they expand to your state.

To sign up for the movement, you just have to enter these things:

  • a phone number verified via an OTP
  • all the email ids you have registered with Facebook, Google, Twitter etc so they know what are your accounts and how much worth is your data there.
  • PayPal Email address so they can eventually send you the money.
  • And some basic information like name and address

After doing this, the DDP team will approach tech companies on your and other’s (who signed up) behalf to get you your data dividend. They say they may have to go the courtroom as well depending on how these companies react. For now, we don’t have a word on the progress of the project. But DDP website says they will give an update sometime in August.

Also, you don’t have to pay anything, but to keep thing’s going, the DDP team is testing some options including retaining a percentage of the final amount you’re supposed to get from your data.

Yang imagines the day to be great when tens of thousands of people will get their first data dividend. Maybe $10, $20 or maybe $100 into their PayPal wallet. He aims to mobilise a million people in California to support this project. Well, I don’t think this will be an easy journey.

Will you sign up for the Data Dividend Project if it was running in your state or country?

Originally published at Theciva. Sign up for more amazing stories from Theciva


What is the Data Dividend Project: Get Paid for Your Facebook Data was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Future of Social Media and More…

Wearable Tech, Marketing Innovations, Data Privacy

Source: Search Engine Journal

Be it grandmas tweeting their grocery lists online or hungry college graduates spamming their potential employers’ LinkedIn inboxes, there is a growing majority of us who spend more time socialising in this virtual world than in real life — and it doesn’t look like we’re slowing down.

Wearable Technology and Innovations

Source: ARDigitalDesign

As of now social media integration with wearable technologies is limited to mostly just receipt of notifications through smartwatches. However, the future of this segment is promising with GoogleGlass and other innovations on the way which will radically change the way we communicate with the outside world. Like Snapchat’s Spectacles which are available for commercial use, it’s a very plausible reality that sharing content will become as easy as the blink of an eye or a flick of a finger and viewing notifications will be through a visual overlay right in front of our eyes. In the not-so-distant future, we might see influencers filming clips for their videos or travel vloggers sharing their day with the world right through their glasses.

It’s not all just holograms and AR out of an Iron Man movie that will drive these changes. Once voice search is fully incorporated with today’s social media apps, in the near future we could send out tweets and post on Facebook through our smartwatches, AirPods or other such devices. Podcasts and other audio content will thus be easily shared through this development.

Content Creation and Privacy

Source: Search Engine Journal

In 2019, there were an estimated 2.95 billion people spending on average 2 and a half hours on social media applications worldwide. As this number grows day-by-day this huge bubble has reduced our attention span tremendously and paved the way for more short-video content as compared to static images and longer videos. But by far the most exciting future comprises of using AI to push personalised content to every consumer’s device. By mapping data on time spent per video, clicks and reads, Tik-Tok’s revolutionary AI framework has overtaken its other traditional contemporaries by producing a unique addictive effect on the customer.

On the flip side, this raises the issue of harnessing private data. In a research study published in the journal — Nature Human Behaviour — it was discovered that some machine learning algorithms could create a profile for an individual including their “political affiliation” or “leisure interests” with a 95% accuracy rate by analysing their tweets with just 8–9 of their friends. Therefore, even if you delete your Twitter account, the platform can analyse your friend’s behaviours to create a database of non-users as well. With legislation, such as GDPR by the EU, failing to control breaches, monetization of our data might be the price we need to pay for using social media applications for free.

Marketing Analytics and Strategies

Source: Hootsuite Blog

The art of storytelling was mainly used by bloggers, influencers and other content creators however through social media businesses will be able to sell authentic and personal stories to increase awareness about their brand, bring social change and even connect their brand to an emotion. This form might rely on influencers/micro-influencers or connecting with individual consumers to spread their stories and experiences. This is the future of marketing and is further proven by a survey in which 63% of marketers said that they will increase their budget allocation towards influencers in the following year.

But it’s not only the big firms that will benefit. Owners of smaller firms can use hashtags on Twitter and Facebook to promote their products and use customer analytics to identify their target demographics to develop future strategies for literally zero costs. It can also be used as a distribution channel as shown in Instagram’s new feature of shoppable-tags directly from the posts themselves. However, building relationships will be the biggest benefit as brand loyalty will play a bigger role than ever before in consumer purchasing behaviours.

The social media revolution is already in full swing and with exciting innovations in the works in this field, the future for this industry is extremely promising.


Future of Social Media and More… was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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