Personal Data On the Web, Privacy, Giveaway, Whatever, Meh…

…because no-one really knows what it means to “give away” your personal data..

So I was wondering… Mailing list providers (direct mail marketers) have been around for decades, buying and selling address lists containing the contact details of folk the resellers claim are (likely) interested in a particular thing, or fall into a particular demographic.

See some examples here: Demographically Classed or List Brokerage – Putting Data About You to Work….

An easy way of generating a list is to sell the list of subscribers to your magazine or society, under the assumption that the people who subscribe to the magazine, or join the society are interested in the thing the magazine or society is about.

Which got me thinking of what might be quite a fun website – “who the h*** do you think I am?” dot com – that would buy access to as many mailing lists it could afford, dump the data into a big database, and then let you either put in your email address and get a list emailed back to you containing the names of all the lists your email address is on, or put in your address and tip the price of a cheap mailing, and have a paper list detailing all the lists you are on posted to that address.

I suspect that such a thing is not really possible, not least because I imagine the idea is that you don’t actually buy these mailing lists – rather, you hand over your message and say which list you want it distributed against.

If you could get hold of the actual email or address lists, though, I suspect the license terms and conditions would prevent you setting up just such a service. Unless someone put in a Data Protection Act subject access request to you, in which case, I guess you’d have to hand over the information….?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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