Fernando Beltrán

Fernando is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management. His research interests include the economics of service competition in open-access Next-Generation platforms, the digital dividend, and the efficient sharing and allocation of radio spectrum.

Power to the people: towards monetising your personal data

Until recently, we all subscribed to free digital apps and online services, usually without reading the screeds of terms and conditions attached, and often without really understanding what we were getting ourselves into. That is, not only is our data used by the organisation we signed up to, but it can be onsold to other organisations to use for their own purposes.

However, since some shocking breaches of data privacy by social network sites like Facebook and consumer reporting agencies like Equifax have come to light, many consumers are becoming more wary about giving away their personal data.

Fernando and his research partner Gehan Gunasekara (Commercial Law), together with PhD student Mengxiao Zhang, are looking at ways to understand current privacy protection policies at digital data marketplaces, which are platforms for selling and buying data, and design ways for such exchanges to financially reward data owners (sellers) while protecting their privacy.

In order for that fair transaction scenario to become a reality, Fernando says, there is a need to design a mechanism for pricing the data, which is where his research comes in. He and his partners will be conducting experiments with subjects (mainly University of Auckland students) in the DECIDE lab, a state-of-the-art facility for research on business decision-making, located in the Business School.

This mechanism usually takes the form of a simulated online auction or process of negotiation that replicates what could happen in the real data marketplace. Important questions include: Are you willing to sell your personal data, how much could you expect to be paid for it, and how does the payment system work, so that your privacy is not compromised?

Fernando and Gehan have recently obtained a Business School FRDF grant to cover research, first, into the practical and legal aspects of data monetisation, with a focus on the New Zealand context. Then the project will delve into its experimental phase where data will be collected and analysed. Watch this space…