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A startup that pays to invade your mobile privacy

Posting in Technology
Everyone wants to track our data: Google, advertisers, businesses, the NSA. But what do we get out of it? A personalized search experience? Targeted ads? The creepy feeling that we're always being watched? 

There's a reason your personal online data is so coveted: it's valuable. Here's a good look at how your personal online data is being tracked and sold right now.

A Seattle startup, Placed, also wants your data, but it's not ignoring the fact that your data is being used for profit. Quite the opposite, it's compensating you for the right to track your mobile data, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Here's how it works: Users download the Placed mobile app. As they go about their day, the app tracks their location data which is then sold to businesses and advertisers. But, in return, users collect points which can be redeemed for gift cards or drawings. 

To be clear, users aren't going to get rich off their data. When I downloaded the app it estimated that in a year I will collect more than 12,000 points, or about 33 points per day. That adds up to $10 worth of gift cards in a year (5000 points earns a $5 gift card). Or you could use 30 points each day to enter a drawing for a $10 gift card.  

It might not be much compensation, but it's better than all the apps that collect more than you probably know, for free. 

So what kinds of insights are they gaining that they're willing to pay you for it? Here are a few examples from some of the findings Placed has published from the data:

  • Mothers were 26 percent less likely to visit specialty grocers Trader Joe’s and 41 percent less likely to visit Whole Foods.
  • As the largest food advertiser in Spanish-language media, McDonald’s showed the strongest skew among Hispanic customers compared to Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell.
  • Retailers that chose to remain closed on Thanksgiving, including The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, and Costco, still made the top 10 stores visited on Black Friday.

Photo: Flickr/Johan Larsson

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— By on February 20, 2014, 4:15 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure