My name is Ángel Cuevas. I work for University Carlos III of Madrid. I have a background degree, master degree and PhD Degree on Telematics Engineering. Long time back, my background comes to internet measurements and at the end of making lots of measurements in Internet you are collecting lots of data and you need really to analyze it in order to understand and resolve the problem behind that.
Explain us about your Facebook Data Valuation Tool
We have created a web browser add-on that allows internet users to know what is the economic value, the revenue they are generating for Facebook while they are browsing in this system. They just need to install it from the Google Chrome Store, search for Facebook Data Valuation Tool (FDVT). They install it and every time they access to Facebook what we do is gathering the market prices using two common indicators in mobile advertising, which is the cost per thousand impressions and the cost per click; and we monitor the number of ads that are displayed in the Facebook session. So, with the number of ads displayed and the number of clicks the user makes to those ads we can compute an estimation of the economic value, the revenue they generate for Facebook.
Who can benefit from it?
Initially, let’s say it has a social focus in order to create awareness among users regarding the value of their personal information. Obviously in this process we have been contacted by some start-ups that are trying to set up a new business model in which they exploit the personal data of users and in exchange they share part of the revenue with the user. One of the problems that companies have is to understand what is the actual value that users generate over a long period. So, if I need to pay back the user, what is a first share for them? So basically, they need to understand whether a user, in a given service like Facebook, generates one dollar per month or thousand dollars per month. This trade-off is relevant not only for users but to other players that might be also interested in the results of the Facebook Data Valuation Tool.
What’s the status of the project? Do you have further projects in mind?
The Facebook Data Valuation tool itself it’s quite complete, the plugin is now available. It was quite successful and now we have more than 4,000 installations, so more than 4,000 people that we don’t know who they are have installed the tool and every day we are getting more and more installations, so the point in that sense is quite successful. Due to this success, we are still working on this research line. The version for Firefox and Opera is ready so we are just waiting for the approval in the webstores, so as soon as they approve the plugins they will be public and the Facebook Data Valuation Tool will be also available in Firefox and Opera soon.
Which are the main challenges and developments in the field of data transparency online?
There are many challenges and the Data Transparency Lab is making a very good effort funding projects that are solving different aspects. But so far, from my point of view, we are in a very early status of data transparency, in the sense that users, I mean regular users not advance users; are very far away from understanding what is the use that private companies and online companies are making with their data. We made some surveys and a basic question like the one of the Facebook Data Valuation Tool, even advance users do not know the value of their data. So, let’s say that from my point of view we are still in a phase that creating awareness is a challenge and we need to go into that direction to really create awareness regarding how online services and online companies are using personal data so we can introduce users to more complex questions on how they can take control over that, how they can for instance, block companies that are being too invasive to them, etc. Just to be short in your answer I think that the main challenge right now is creating awareness among regular internet users.
How did you know about the Data Transparency Lab?
I know some of the co-founders of the Data Transparency Lab so I am aware of this initiative from the very beginning back in to 2014, I think. And later we participated in the call for projects and we were awarded with a grant for developing the Facebook Data Valuation Tool. So, I know the Data Transparency Lab from the beginning.
You’ll be participating at the “Jornadas sobre privacidad y Ciudadanía Digital”. What will you be doing there?
What we’ll be doing is to talk in front of politicians and people from the government etc., and we’ll be showing some demos, including the Facebook Data Valuation Tool and other stuff we have been developing around privacy. So, we can also bring these issues to the higher layers of decision makers in the Spanish government, so let’s see how it works. Beyond that, we are working on other initiatives like one European project that is called TYPES Project, which is very aligned with the spirit of the Data Transparency Lab and what we are doing in this project is developing tools that allow users to gain control over their own data, including data valuation but other aspects like recognizing who are the trackers that are gathering your personal data when you are visiting websites. We are giving them tools to make a fine grain blocking of those trackers that users do not like, etc. In addition to these two initiatives I have participated in different conferences, even Youtube online debates in this area of data transparency.
You have my full support for the Data Transparency Lab. I think it’s a great initiative and even though the Facebook Data Valuation Tool funding is over we are still in touch with the people of the Data Transparency Lab to see how we can collaborate further. I think this type of initiatives are very valuable, especially because they are bringing together people from different areas that do not have many opportunities of really join together to discuss about this important topic such as data transparency.