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Pandemic has forced people to live almost entirely online. 13 startups offer control of your data



As COVID-19 lockdowns forced millions around the world to stay at home, research indicates there was a surge of signups to online shopping sites, streaming services, and other online services. 

According to data privacy service Mine, shared exclusively with Business Insider earlier this month, the number of US consumers handing their personal info over – be it to streaming services, food delivery firms or other sites – surged by 60% between March and June.  Signups jumped even faster in France – 66% – compared to 51% in the UK, 46% in Israel, 42% in Italy, and 36% in Germany. 

The five most popular services across all territories included Netflix, Spotify, Zoom, Disney+, and Twitch. As consumers become ever more conscious of who holds their personal information, Business Insider broke down 13 of the best startups helping you take control of your data. Check them out – in no particular order – below: 

MeWe is challenging social media giants like Facebook and Twitter MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein (left) with Sir Tim Berners-Lee Mark Weinstein and Tim Berners LeeLaunched in 2016, MeWe positions itself as a challenger to mainstream social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. The site provides its members with a 10-point "privacy bill of rights", which bans targeted advertising and guarantees user data won't be sold to third-parties, among other things. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and an advocate of online rights, sits on the firm's advisory board. MeWe is niche but growing, exploding from 700,000 members in January 2018 to almost 10 million today. While this may pale compared to Facebook's approximately 2.5 billion monthly active users, MeWe looks to be growing rapidly, with a strong international presence beyond the US.

Gener8 lets you choose what kind of ads you see Ex-Red Bull exec and Gener8 founder Sam Jones Gener8Sam Jones, the CEO of data rights startup Gener8, offers customers the ability to choose what type of ads they see online and profit from them.  Gener8 effectively works as an online ad-blocker, while also allowing users to choose the kind of companies they are happy to receive ads from. After a period of time, users can recoup this exposure in the form of tokens, such as Amazon gift cards. Jones says once he has built up a large enough userbase, the firm will switch to providing cash incentives. Jones is campaigning for a "Digital Data Dividend" and has filed a public petition with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which can be found here. His petition calls for a compulsory "single click" opt-out to be installed for those who do not want to have their information harvested online, and for companies to "financially compensate people when they make money from selling their data."

NetToken offers a control panel for your digital ID NetToken founders Simonetta d'Ottaviano and Charlotte Slingsby NetTokenFounded in 2015, NetToken brands itself as the "control panel for your digital identity", helping users track all their accounts and share them securely. Based in London, the seed-stage startup has thus far been backed by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre and VC firm Cylon. After downloading the NetToken app, users can safely and conveniently store their credentials and account logins without having to type them in manually every time. "Every day we sign up to new services, from utilities, online banking, shopping accounts, TV and music platforms, to that one account we had to make only to buy a concert ticket," a spokesperson said. "Not only do all these signups expose our identity to serious security threats, it is also a hassle to keep track of them, remember all the login details, know which services we are paying for, and just find them when we need them. "NetToken brings awareness and control to our personal digital identity, without having to be a cybersecurity geek to be able to use it." DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn't track your history DuckDuckGo founder & CEO Gabriel Weinberg. Washington Post via Getty ImagesIf any privacy-focused search engine is going to rival Google Search, it might be DuckDuckGo. With close to 2 billion monthly direct queries in June, the search engine named after the children's game continues to gain real traction. Privacy is the main selling point for DuckDuckGo. The Google search alternative doesn't track your search history, the time or location of your search, or your Internet address. As TechJunkie reported, though, having "true" privacy online is almost impossible. Even though search engines like DuckDuckGo help keep things private on your computer, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still access the history of domain names you visited. If complete privacy is of utmost importance to your browsing on the web, TechJunkie suggests installing the Tor browser. Mine lets you reclaim your data back with the click of a button Gal Ringel, Mine CEO Mine is an AI startup allowing users to take ownership of their personal data. The startup has launched after raising $3 million in an investment seed round led by Battery Ventures. Since 2014, EU data protection rules have allowed individuals to ask organizations to delete their personal information, including phone numbers, dates of birth, and email addresses. Google has been among those most impacted by this "right to be forgotten", with 2.4 million people submitting requests in just four years. The Mine app works by using what the company calls "non-intrusive" machine learning algorithms, which root out the companies flooding your inbox with promotions or other sign-up material. Users are then presented with a list of corporations which currently hold their personal information, and can then send them an email requesting that their data be deleted with the click of a button.

Helm offers a safe at-home email server Helm is a consumer privacy and security company helping people take back ownership of their data. Founded in 2016, Helm's $500 device is an in-home email server, meaning all of your data and emails are stored on the device right in your home. Helm doesn't collect much information about its users besides the necessary details like payment information and device diagnostics, and any communication or data are encrypted when they leave the Helm device.  The device features a standard 120GB of storage, but that can be increased to up to 5TB with additional hardware.

Kneron has created a blockchain marketplace for selling data Albert Liu, CEO and founder of AI startup Kneron is an edge AI solutions provider backed by the likes of Alibaba, Sequoia, and Qualcomm. The US-Taiwanese company gained fame in December 2019 after its researchers found they were easily able to fool facial recognition scanners on payment devices and at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam with printed masks. The company designs edge AI chips that keep customer data off the cloud, using algorithms to process information on-device, and improving security and efficiency when performing tasks like voice or facial recognition. On Thursday, Kneron announced its new KNEO blockchain integration, which provides a marketplace for users to create and sell digital assets using their own data – cutting out big tech.

TapMyData helps businesses fulfil data requests Founder and CTO Tom Holder TapMyData helps both consumers make – and companies fulfil – subject access requests fast, securely and at volume through a dedicated channel built to Privacy by Design principles. Under EU law, a subject access request is a written request from an individual to an organization asking what information they hold on that person. "If handled in the right way, your response as an organization can build trust at a time when a lot of brands are losing it," a spokesman for TapMyData said. "Our data shows when users receive a prompt, clear response from organizations about their data, they respond in a positive way to the brand and are happy to be in a dialogue."

Jumbo lets you know who knows what about you New York-based Jumbo launched in April 2019 on a free-to-use basis – and has now reached around 60,000 monthly active users. The free version of Jumbo allows you to go into a limited number of platforms and services you use and control how they share your data. The app will also alert you to any security breaches, and lets you set up an auto-delete on your social media posts so any older than, for example, six months get automatically deleted. The firm's two-tier paid subscription model, Jumbo Plus and Jumbo Pro and gives users the ability to control their privacy on more platforms. Jumbo Plus allows users to manage what data is hoovered up on Instagram, Amazon Alexa, and Facebook Messenger for example. Jumbo Pro adds LinkedIn to this list, and allows you to block 400 ad trackers. 

Digi.me lets you keep track of your digital identity DigiMe CEO Andrew Carmody Using Digi.me, consumers can connect with more than 15,000 sources of personal data – including social media, credit cards, banks, fitness wearables, music history, and health records. Users can then install apps specifically designed to be powered by Digi.me in order to gain insights, analytics, and other valuable information about their lives. Digi.me doesn't store a user's data library on a centralized server. Once the data is downloaded and compiled, it is encrypted and stored on a cloud service (e.g., Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive) of the user's choosing. Because the user stores their data library in their own personal cloud, they retain full ownership and control over it.

Basecamp's Hey is changing the way we engage with emails Hey costs $99-per-year and launched on June 16 as an invite-only service, but the company has since expanded it to the general public. It blocks email-tracking software and doesn't sell ads, instead relying on subscriptions. Rather than having one main inbox, Hey splits emails up into different categories based on the type of mail you usually receive. First, there's the Imbox — an inbox for your important stuff. This is where you can view new emails that you haven't previously seen as well as messages you've already read. But messages don't just appear in your Imbox. You have the ability to screen new senders, similar to the way you would screen a phone call. This way you can make sure you're not getting slammed with emails that aren't relevant to you. 

OzoneAI wants companies to pay you for your data OzoneAI claims to be the "first app that gives you full control over your data and the power to get paid for it". Similar to Gener8, Ozone offers to simply pay you to view custom content and offers from your favorite companies while protecting you from data hoarders. The firm makes money by charging a 30% cut from the businesses who subscribe to their users' data, and insist this model offers better value than those who advertise through the likes of Facebook and Google receive. Wibson will give you a personalized privacy score Wibson CEO Rodrigo Irarrazaval Wibson is part of the European Union project PimCity, whose mission is to ensure that citizens, companies, and organizations are informed and can make respectful and ethical use of personal data. With Wibson, users can easily find out who holds their data, what type of data is being held, and request it to be deleted under GDPR. The firm also offers a personalized privacy score, which shows you the level of exposure that your data has. It is based on the number of companies that have your data, compared to the average, and considering the sensitivity of data that each company holds.




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