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Brief Published: 13 Aug 2014

Digital Privacy: CitizenMe


UK tech start-up CitizenMe has launched an iPhone app that aims to help consumers "take back control of their digital identity" by allowing them to centrally manage their social media profiles.

The app alerts users to the terms of service used by online companies and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. CitizenMe gives popular apps traffic-light-style ratings for their data management, flagging any potentially controversial behaviour such as last-minute changes to terms of service or copyright claims to personal content.

CitizenMe also uses an algorithm developed with researchers at Cambridge University's Psychometric Centre in the UK to make character assessments based on the type of language used in social media posts. Users receive a rating informing them whether their social media persona is conservative or liberal, organised or spontaneous, calm or stressed, outgoing or reserved.

The idea is to make people more aware of how their data is being used, according to CitizenMe founder StJohn Deakins. "Our personal data is worth billions of dollars a year, it fuels the internet, but we don't get to choose the terms of the deal," reads CitizenMe's website.

Deakins plans to develop the app into a "personalised data exchange", allowing users to sell their information to advertisers, or donate it to charities or non-profit research initiatives.

Consumers are becoming more aware of the value of their personal data to advertisers and brands. Earlier this month, Facebook migrated users of its mobile chat service to a dedicated messenger app, sparking an outcry over the far-reaching permissions demanded in its terms of service.

For more on how the privacy debate is shaping consumer attitudes and brand strategy, take a look at Mobile World Congress 2014: Security & Privacy, and SXSW 2014: Privacy.