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You Want My Personal Data? Reward Me For It

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Bynamite founders

Ian Wilkes, left, and Ginsu Yoon are the founders of Bynamite, which is testing software that monitors what ad networks and Web sites collect and assume to know about a user.

Jim Wilson / The New York Times

Life, as they say, imitates art. And the way things work commercially today across much of the Web recalls that chapter in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" where Tom cajoles his guileless friends into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence. They supply the labor, but he gets the reward.

On the Internet, users supply the raw material that helps generate billions of dollars a year in online advertising revenue. Search requests, individual profiles on social networks, Web browsing habits, posted pictures and many Internet messages are all mined to serve up targeted online ads.

All of this personal information turns out to be extremely valuable, collectively. So why should Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other ad businesses get all the rewards?

From The New York Times
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