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Release 9.0: User-Managed Privacy Tools

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The NY Times has an interesting piece today by Steve Lohr about Bynamite, a service that lets users manage their own data for themselves.

I love this idea... but I have loved it for more than 10 years! What makes Ginsu Yoon more likely to succeed than Seth Goldstein with RootMarket and the many others who all have had this same idea? Or the services like UPromise that give you deals if you shop with partners? Is he a great entrepreneur?

It may be simply that its time has finally come... Facebook et al. have accustomed users to managing their own data -- and Bynamite wants to help them to do that Web-wide rather than merely on Facebook (and all the places it reaches with Open Graph). Behavioral targeting is also gaining traction recently; it's the same idea, except with the marketers in control watching the consumer surreptitiously rather than communicating with her.

It's interesting to note that the first round of these companies a decade ago -- WhenU, Claria -- began in this way (with much less data and worse UIs), but ultimately turned into spyware because they had such a hard time generating opt-in downloads and instead relied on sneaky practices to get installs.

With luck this time it will be different, because the basic principle is a good one: Give people control over (the use of) their own data.

If I were doing this (or investing in one), I would play up the social angle and let users compare themselves to others (Shopville -- it's a parking site right now)... or buy things together ... and then I might end up with a user-demand (as well as a user-aggregation) version of Groupon.

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