How to Own and Get Paid for Your Online Data
Who you are—the interests that define you—is valuable.
If, for instance, you search online for “lime-green porcelain gardening sheers,” there’s a maker of lime-green porcelain gardening sheers somewhere in the world eager to pay for information on you so that it can market to you through Google ads and Facebook ads and other online venues.
In a cyber world, such information—big data—is the currency of the realm. It’s a money-making asset no different than rental property or a savings account. Yet, there’s an ongoing money heist here: You and I don’t control our own data. Someone else does. And that someone else is making money by collecting and collating our online life and then packaging it and selling it—with our generally vague knowledge—to those companies that want to pitch us their wares.
And that annoys me.
See, we live in an age in which earning income passively is a viable, much-envied goal. And because data—our data—is worth a pretty penny to marketers and advertisers, we should be the ones banking the bucks born of our own information. I don’t care if companies want to target me; frankly, that’s how I find products and services I don’t know about. But if Google or Facebook or whatever company wants to sell my information to others, then I should have a hand in that till, too.
I realize not everyone has the tools or desire to work at creating a passive income stream. But that’s precisely what I’m getting at with personal data: We don’t have to work at all to earn these dollars. It is perhaps the purest passive income stream that exists, since it requires no seed capital to start, nor any investment of time.
To that end, let me introduce you to a new web browser I recently came across in all the cryptocurrency research I’ve been doing lately. It’s called the Brave browser. Its premise is simple: Your data belongs to you. Full stop.
If companies want to pay to market to your interests, then you should benefit from that financially. So instead of Google, Facebook, and others pocketing dollars by selling your data, Brave gives the lion’s share of that money to you.
First and foremost, Brave blocks all ads and phishing attempts, and it prevents information about you and your browsing habits from ever leaving your computer or your smartphone. In effect, Brave builds a moat around your data.
But there’s a drawbridge you can lower if you want, and that’s where the passive income opportunity arises.
You can opt in to Brave Rewards, in which you allow unobtrusive system notifications to pop up, or sponsored images on new tab pages that you open. For allowing that, Brave pays you 70% of the fees it earns from advertisers that want to reach your eyeballs. Your data, however, remains private and housed on your computer only. Better still, you’re in total control of the ads in terms of the number of notifications that pop up or whether you want to see sponsored images on those new tabs. You can turn it off any time.
You payments accumulate as Basic Attention Tokens, or BAT, one of the top 30 or so cryptocurrencies (and there are more than 5,000, so BAT is one of the larger, reputable currencies). You can convert BAT into other major cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ultimately into dollars.
To be clear, I don’t want to imply that you’ll earn oodles of passive dollars collecting BAT while you browse the net. But if you surf as frequently as I do, then you’ll certainly collect some BAT that has some real value. And just maybe it will be worth more than expected. In crypto bull markets, coins can rise in value 10x, 100x, 1,000x or more, and often quickly. Indeed, a coin I currently own was up nearly 125% in three days. (BAT’s historic high is about $0.76 vs $0.25 as I write this.)
I’ve only been using the Brave browser for a few days, and frankly I’ve been bouncing between Brave and Google Chrome because so many of my research links are saved in my Chrome bookmarks and I haven’t moved them over yet. Still, I’ve managed to collect a bit more than $1 worth of BAT. Moreover, I’ve not optimized Brave to show me as many ads as I’m willing to tolerate. Ultimately, I can see that using Brave will generate a couple hundred dollars a year, possibly more depending on BAT’s price.
Now, I’ve taken my newfound interest in the Brave browser a step further, however—which might be useful if you’re a content creator like me with your own blog, YouTube channel, or other social media site. I’ve linked Brave advertising to my gold-update blog so that anyone visiting the blog by way of the Brave browser will see ads relevant to their interests, and if they click on those ads then both of us benefit. Seems fair to me.
Moreover, Brave allows web surfers to tip BAT (in any amount) to creators of content they appreciate. So, I’ve set up my blog to allow Brave browser users to toss a BAT or three my way if they deem my content worthy. Again, I’ll emphasize that I’m not expecting to get rich with this.
Nevertheless, I go back to one of the overarching Savvy Retiree themes: Exploit all the opportunities you can in the pursuit of earning more, saving more, and living a richer life. The way I see it, this effort costs me literally nothing—I’m going to surf the web, regardless. The only effort comes in creating an electronic wallet that collects and holds the BAT you earn, and that’s a fairly simple process.
To me, then, hooking into the Brave browser in a passive income world is like walking along a sidewalk and finding a $100 bill just lying there. Do you ignore it and just keep on walking? Or do you take two seconds to squat down and pick up free money?
By Jeff D. Opdyke