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Sit back and relax: you can earn up to $10k just by watching ads


Young emotional man and woman in bright casual clothes posing on pink and blue background

If you think that disappearing from the grid is mission impossible, you can at least get paid for your data that companies (mis)use. It seems that the data ownership concept, so strongly advocated by the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser, is gaining momentum.

Privacy has become a mainstream concern specifically because of the explotation of our personal information. As various start-ups focusing on data ownership are popping up around the world, we continue interviewing them to understand whether getting paid for our data by advertisers is becoming a new normal.

Can you earn enough just from sharing your data with companies to make a living? Probably not. But making 7-10k per year seems like a viable future scenario, Erik Rind, the CEO of ImagineBC, told CyberNews.

Brittany Kaiser, once a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, is now a prominent data ownership advocate. She believes that data is a commodity more valuable than oil these days. Therefore, their truthful owners - we - should get paid by the companies.

“Data can become the great equalizer in society. We could earn a universal basic income of the value of being the producer of valuable data sets. Whether this data can be used for medical research to make sure we can cure cancer, and diabetes, and other illnesses more quickly, or whether we can use it for smart cities to make sure that we are not going to have that next traffic accident, or even on a larger scale, don’t have that next mass shooting or terrorist attack,” she once said.

Kaiser runs the Own Your Data Foundation, which “works to fill the knowledge gap, advocating for a digitally intelligent global community.” While the foundation focuses on building advanced training programs for those who teach digital intelligence skills, start-ups are popping up with solutions on how to get paid for sharing data.

TIKI app, for example, offers you two solutions - getting paid for data or disappearing from the grid. Permission.io connects you with advertisers - in exchange for your browser history and cookies, as well as contact information, you can earn cryptocurrency. If you are about to make an expensive purchase, like buying a house or a car, your data can be worth hundreds of dollars, if not more. 

ImagineBC is yet another project designed to help people earn money by sharing their data with businesses. We sat down with its founder and CEO, Erik Rind, to discuss whether getting paid for data is about to become a new reality.

Thirst for privacy

Three years ago, when Rind started his current endeavor, he didn't see privacy becoming a mainstream concern yet. Now, the situation is quite different - privacy has become a pressing issue for many users.

"I think we are inoculated against data breaches. That's not the reason. The main reasons are the misuse of our data, our data being used in ways we didn't anticipate it being used in, things like Cambridge Analytica, and the fact that now you have Facebook and Google making the largest fortunes by collecting our data and showing no signs of stopping," Rind said.

Erik Rind

Privacy-based Brave browser, according to Rind, is a fantastic platform, taking on Google, and all kinds of different solutions are popping up.

"People need to be aware they exist, to be told the advantages of doing so. Ultimately, it still comes down to an individual doing it. People say, 'you are crazy to try to take on these giants; they are too big.' That might be the case but let's remember that it is not the giants paying. The money is coming from advertising," Rind explained.

"The advertisers have the power because they are the ones that have the money. And those platforms distribute money to people rather than being kept by Google, Facebook, and their shareholders."

Are tech giants worried about these start-ups fishing for money in their pockets? Rind believes they have more pressing issues, as companies such as Facebook and Google are facing antitrust probes around the world.

How does it work?

"I think there's enough momentum now that if we don't get it done within the next 2-3 years, it's not going to get done. It means the giants have won. (...) You can't allow Google and Facebook to run the world," Rind said.

It's not big bucks at the moment. But it might be way more once advertisers and consumers embrace the fact that data is a commodity.

ImagineBC is a closed-loop referral community - you have to be invited by somebody to join. It operates in the US and Canada, and will soon expand to Australia, the UK, and other countries. It pays consumers for their data in US dollars.

And here are the four main ways to earn money. One is simply watching an advertisement. It is not worth much. Filling a survey, which takes longer, pays better, too. You can also participate in focus groups, where an hour of your time could be worth $150-$200. All these three options still allow you to remain anonymous while earning money.

The fourth option is giving away your phone number, email address, or even social media account details for direct marketing purposes.

"You should be asking for a lot more money for that. You can do that. You are deciding to give up your phone number or your email address," Rind explained. Your contact details will be revealed to the buyer only after you get paid.

ImagineBC also functions as a media platform - it offers some engaging content for its users. The content is not free - to unlock it, you can watch, for example, a Pepsi ad for 0,25 cents and then spend that money to view your favorite content ad-free.

How much can you earn?

Ten cents from every dollar invested in the platform goes to social cause partners. It means that you can watch an ad to raise money for the organization that you love.

"Now, you are changing the nature of advertising. That creates a stronger intrinsic bond between you and the consumer," Rind said.

Currently, the ImagineBC community is small, and the earnings, therefore, are small too. But Rind hopes to get the ball rolling.

"The question is - how much an individual could make from their data? How much is it worth on an annual basis? Could I make a living just sitting there and watching ads? No, you can't. But conservatively, I believe, you are looking at probably 7-10 thousand dollars a year. That's significant," he said.

Not all the money will be cashed out. Naturally, some people would spend the earnings to unlock exciting content, some part of it would go to charity, and well, of course, groceries.

“Again, it's not your living, so you'll do what you feel is right. That's the way it should be. Individuals should always be able to make a choice themselves," Rind explained.

Extra $10k a year seems like a good deal, even if you spend half of it on paid content or donating it. But why should companies be interested, especially when they can already find a lot of data about you in open sources?

What’s in it for advertisers?

We all know how annoying ads can be, and they might do close to nothing in selling the product. Advertisers recognize the need to create a stronger bond with potential consumers. Paying them money for watching their ads might help.

"It's not going to happen immediately, paying somebody ten cents to watch an ad on time," Rind said. But ultimately, if a consumer keeps watching the ad for money, he might choose that product rather than a competitor's when shopping.

Rind argues that donating money to a good cause also strengthens the bond between the company and its consumer.

Watching particular ads on the platform will also unlock content, which, according to Rind, shouldn't be free.

"If I want to watch this content and they are charging me 25 cents to watch it, I remember that Pepsi Cola is offering 25 cents to watch their ad. So I will go and watch that ad now because I want to watch this person's content. Does it cost me anything except for a couple of seconds of my life? That also strengthens the intrinsic bond, because now Pepsi has helped that consumer get something they wanted, which is access to that content," Rind explained.

Isn't that a paradox - we try to avoid ads at any cost, and now we are expected to watch them intentionally?

Not really, Rind believes. People are willing to watch advertisements as they might have some value to them, and as long as they are not creepy and unexpectedly popping up on their devices.

"I don't like crap popping up on my devices. I don't like it popping up when I'm trying to watch content. If I'm watching this, I would like to watch it without ads. Again, that is what our platform does. We change that — no ads in the content. In fact, by watching an ad, I purchased the content. That's working well. That is good capitalism," Rind explained.


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