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This Start-Up Wants to Trade You for Your Personal Data

As the number of Web applications that track personal data continues to grow, one start-up is hoping to convince you to give it up voluntarily.

As the number of Web applications that track personal data continues to grow, one start-up is hoping to convince you to give it up voluntarily.

While companies like DataCoup and Handshake offer cash rewards in exchange for your social media data and purchasing history, Ashwini Anburajan and her start-up Social Data Collective want to trade you for it.

Previously, Anburajan helped build BuzzFeed's data and content network, which tracks 500 million people as well as more than 250 publishers. More recently, she graduated from tech accelerator Grand Central Tech's incubator program and is expected to formally launch her company later this year.

"I consider data monetization to really be a new form of currency and customer acquisition," Anburajan said. "We could be living in a future where instead of paying for a box of samples, like we do with Birchbox, we use our data to get that box of samples."

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Anburajan, who has spent the last year researching and surveying millennials, hopes to solicit personal data from consumers by bartering with them. She says most people don't want money. Instead, they perceive products and services as having a higher value.

"It's really about just psychology," she said. "If I were to tell you that I am going to give you free Starbucks every month ... or you're going to get five bucks. What sounds better? It's the same price, actually."

The Social Data Collective will aggregate the data it receives from consumers and build a proprietary analytics system that brands can access.

One of the start-up's goals is to reach people who actively take steps to avoid being contacted.

Millennials, specifically, are a difficult generation to influence with traditional forms of digital advertising because so many of them are using ad-blocking software. A 2014 study by PageFair and Adobe determined that 41 percent of people age 18 to 29 use some sort of advertisement filtration.

In spite of this, Anburajan found that 78 percent of women and 70 percent of men who use ad blocking would be willing to trade their data.

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The Social Data Collective surveyed people age 18 to 34 in the New York metropolitan area and discovered that 38 percent would exchange their personal data for a weekly subway pass.

A similar study from PriceWaterHouseCoopers determined that 63 percent of consumers age 18 to 59 would be interested in discounted movie tickets and 60 percent would accept a coupon for free food or beverages at a movie theater.

J.J. Thompson, CEO of Rook Security, a cybersecurity solutions company, believes having a formal way of sharing data and compensating consumers is a positive technological advance.

However, he says that "people should look for what is in the privacy statement and understand how [their] data will be used and if [they] have any control over the data."

Thompson noted that most of the time users scroll through the terms and conditions and do not consider how their content could be used by the company. Consumers need to remember that accepting these conditions is like signing a contract.

"Once your data is out there, it's never coming back," he warned.