How much are you worth?

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Webadvertising is a tricky and dirty business. Webpublishers, dataminers and advertisers are running around the clock making as much money as possible from so-called 'user profiles' A user profile is you, the reader. Wether you like it or not, your daily usage of the interwebs did make you a profile, even if you did not sign up for anything or use a pseudonym. Your profile is then actively traded and paid for, continously. Inria, a collective from France, has been able to break this process open a little bit, and developed a method to determine how much your profile is being sold for. You’ve probably heard the following statement: “IF YOU DON’T PAY, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT!“ In fact, when you are using the internet, chances are high that your private data are being sold to advertisers. This information is often used to deliver targeted ads. The price paid by advertiser to deliver an ad actually depends on the user’s profile and interests. The goal of this project is to evaluate how online advertisers value users according to their profiles, including their web history, interests and locations. It was found out that the price paid to serve an ad is very low and is equal, on average, to approximately $0.0005!!! … but the price of your private data can be much lower or higher according to the value of your profile. How it works So how is your profile being valued and sold? Corporations like Google offer the opportunity to sell the profiles they gathered in a so-called RTB process, where advertisers can bid for placement of their targeted ads. After a RTB (Real-Time Bidding) auction took place, the Ad Exchange usually informs the winning bidder about the price it has to pay by sending it a price notification. Many such notifications happen through users’ browsers, and leverage this feature to capture winning prices. These prices reflect how advertisers evaluate the value of each individual user according to their profile. Users’ profiles are typically built by advertisers by tracking users’ browsing activities across the websites on the Internet. Plugin To give end users insight in how their profile is being traded and sold of as a commodity, Inria developed a funky plugin. The plugin collects the prices paid by advertisers to deliver ads to YOU. It then computes the average value and your rank within the participating users. You will then be able to see how valuable your data profile is compared to others. Privacy policy The plug-in only collects winning prices in Real-Time Bidding (RTB) auctions. Each user is identified by an identification number which is randomly generated by the plug-in at installation. Data sent to the projects servers is composed of this identification information, the collected prices and advertisers’ domains (e.g. and HTTP parameters whose values contained clear-text prices (e.g. “wp=”). This information is used to compute various statistical values that are displayed to users. Only the advertising prices are collected, and not (and actually don’t even see) any other information related to your online activities, such as the sites that you are visiting. For more information, and to install the plugin, visit: Please spread this story and the links


Given that the pricing information is transported in a public way, like with wp=, what will happen when you (or a plugin) change those values? Will the actual price that companies are charged be changed?

Hi -- no. These are just price notifications. Not possible to charge anyone billions but an idea to bang some money out is viable ;)

"How do I know when someone has purchased data about me?

Most of the time, you don't."

Well, now we do ;-)