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Can the tech world put food on the table? Not just for programmers, but also for users? This is the question a startup called Invisibly request. They’re developing a way for users – that is, all of us on the Internet – to earn a salary for sharing data. Instead of trading their personal information for services like Facebook or Google, Invisibility offers a more explicit contract that rewards people with money for parting with information about what they like to read on the internet.
The compromises of traditional data driven business model are still cloudy. Users have free access, for example, to discussion forums to chat with their friends, search engines, or perhaps some basic office applications. In return, the services follow everything we do and sell advertisements targeting them. It started out as a fairly straightforward transaction, but as stock market valuations rise some are wondering if there is a better balance.
Invisibility’s plan is to explicitly share feedback with the user. The sales literature proclaims: “We do not own your data. You do. ”The current version is called a“ data dividend, ”which allows users to collect points by giving invisible access to their web usage. One hundred points can be converted into a dollar. The company compares l idea to universal basic income, the plan to provide everyone with a regular check just to be part of society.
The company plans to grow beyond its data dividend. We sat down for a video call with Don Vaughn, Product Manager, to understand how they envision creating a consistent revenue stream for users.
VentureBeat: Where do you start trying to pay people for their data?
Don Vaughn: The fundamental real thing that needs to happen is that people need to be in control of their data. It’s a real thing. If businesses have all of your data, then they can understand you and do whatever they want with your attention. If you have your data, then you start to have a minimum of power. The problem is, most people don’t care. The first thing we need to do is make people pay for their data, otherwise no one cares.
VentureBeat: But it’s more than money, isn’t it?
Vaughn: We start with money very intentionally, but it’s more than that. Our vision is that people’s data improves their quality of life. We use this data as a business information platform that lets people know what’s going on. What’s coming out in our next release in a few weeks is where we’re going to get more than just making people pay for their data. We’re going to let them choose what they want to see and filter the internet from that data. So basically they’re going to let them control their reality and the type of things they see. They will not be filtered. Not by Google or Facebook or TikTok or Instagram. They will choose. This is where we are headed.
VentureBeat: I haven’t watched any broadcasts of the Olympics, but my friends tell me it’s unbearable. These are all commercials and teasers for events that might happen later.
Vaughn: It’s all part of the same problem. Tech companies or TV companies or somebody else tell us what we should watch, but they don’t know me very well. They should stop this. I need to have a way to shoot what I want.
So I can’t tell you exactly what we’re doing because it’s not released for six weeks, but the data dividend is the very first product. This is the first way to get people interested. And now our next product is going to be absolutely explosive. In my opinion, this will change the world over the next couple of years because it will give people the ability to not only make money with this data – it will give them control.
We will involve you in the business model. We will share this with you. So you can imagine that this is a whole new business model that is going to come out where, rather than taking the profits off all the data of the people, you are going to create a new business model.
VentureBeat: In the press release, you talked about a goal of one thousand dollars a year.
Vaughn: Right now, people generally think their data is worth a lot, and I wish it was. But the data is actually quite cheap. It’s worth pennies, if not less. Even though it looks like there should be more, an ad unit costs around a tenth of a dime.
What is really more valuable than that is attention. The data relate to sheep farming. Attention is precious. So we think if we can give you what’s worth your attention – if we can find what you would actually like to see rather than just what Facebook thinks you want to see – then it’s much closer to a thousand dollars. of income per year.
VentureBeat: So now I’ve seen a few different systems over the years trying to pay people. Bing has a way of giving me points, which I never seem to be able to use. And I think Brave the Navigator has a reward system available.
Vaughn: Typically, these products consist of getting paid to watch advertisements. I wouldn’t really call them data empowerment. Invisibility tries to take ownership of the segment we call data empowerment. We believe there is tremendous value in driving and using your data for your own income, as we do now with the day to share or to facilitate your attention, get the content and the world you want. The other approaches charge you to watch ads. Invisiblely creates what I think is the first instance of AI for people. AI is currently a business tool. Every business uses it. It is used to manipulate. What’s your defense against that? Is your human brain supposed to understand this and devote its full attention to dealing with it? It is a losing battle.
So the only future I see is AI for people, and that’s the big goal of Invisibility, it’s a protective layer that advocates on your behalf. It’s to defend yourself against everyone who tries to confuse you. It’s also about taking action when you need to find whatever is worth your time and attention to negotiate prices for you in the future. How come no one does this for me? It should all be AI for people, and that’s where Invisibility really goes. It’s a much broader view than dollar advertisements.
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