Your personal information may be valuable to companies looking to sell you stuff, but they don’t pay much for that data.
Basic details like your gender and where you live are available for companies to purchase for as little as $.0005 per person or 50 cents per 1,000 people, the Financial Times reports. If you’re popular with your friends on the internet, your data may be worth slightly more -- about $.00075 per person or 75 cents per 1,000 people.
The cheap price of your personal information is another indication of the wide availability of data many Americans believe is -- or should be -- private, an issue that’s taken on new significance in recent days after a whistleblower told The Guardian that the National Security Agency was monitoring the phone calls of millions of Americans. And a subsequent report from the Washington Post revealed that nine big technology companies were allowing the NSA to access customer data through a program called PRISM.
Companies have been using personal information to sell us stuff for years. Privacy advocates have long criticized grocery stores for using customer reward cards to track purchases. However, it's worth noting that sometimes that information can be used for the benefit of customers; the Centers for Disease Control have used the data to trace the source of food-borne illnesses and determine what products are in need of recall, according to a 2010 Denver Post report.
Last year a stunning New York Times report revealed the power of that customer data. In one case, after gathering enough information about a teenager's purchases, Target sent coupons for maternity products to her house -- tipping off her father to the pregnancy, The Times reported.
Still, there are movements afoot to ensure companies have less access to your private information. A group of privacy advocates is working on setting up an international standard for Do Not Track programs which allow consumers to opt-out of websites’ programs that track their personal information in order to pitch them targeted ads.