The (Social) Revolution Will Not Be Monetized

Apparently, they’re not going to take it anymore. A fiercely determined band of Internet startups has one goal in mind: Take back control of their privacy in this wide-open, personal-data-for-sale world.

“For years, the Internet’s biggest players have hoarded your personal data and sold it for billions. Now, a band of angry startups is demanding privacy and aiming to overhaul the social-media business forever,” writes Will Bourne in Inc.

Citing a change in the public mindset over the past couple of years — especially in light of the Snowden revelations — these companies are creating alternatives to the free and open social networks that harvest user data and make big piles of money selling it to advertisers and others.

Take Nico Sell for example. The co-founder and CEO of mobile messaging app Wickr describes herself as “properly paranoid” when it comes to her online security.

“You give people 10 data points about you and they can steal your identity,” she says to Bourne. “It’s really pretty simple.”

So how is she fighting back, and making it possible for others to do so too?

“[Sell] started Wickr to give her daughters a tool that would allow them to communicate safely, anonymously, with the capacity to control what information is retained on the other end,” says Bourne. Ultimately, notes Bourne, “Sell wants to obliterate the business model on which the world’s most powerful tech companies depend.”

She’s not alone. There is a growing movement in Silicon Valley focused on taking back our digital identities and keeping them secure.

“These entrepreneurs see the status quo–in which users have signed away the rights to their data and online existence to Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, and a few other supremely powerful companies–as not just a violation of privacy but also as fatal to innovation,” explains Bourne.

The technology is rapidly advancing to do just this, and consumer interest has never been higher. More and more “regular” people — not the drug dealers, terrorists and hackers we’ve been conditioned to believe are the only ones to care about this stuff — are taking steps to protect their personal data. The time seems ripe for alternatives that let us stay in touch with our network, without putting our data at risk.

We are curious to see how this reshapes the digital landscape, especially in terms of digital marketing and advertising.