Metaverse leaders at CES see possible side hustle in selling personal data

Quick Take

  • At a CES panel, technology executives ponder people owning and selling their personal data to brands of their choosing.
  • Rather than being surveilled by internet companies, blockchain technology could allow people to not only protect their digital identities but also earn compensation.

Could a future version of the internet allow people to turn what turns them on into cash and rewards? That's what some web3 leaders believe, turning personal data into a sort of side hustle. 
In this case, whether you want to call the future of the internet web3 or the metaverse, blockchain technology may offer online users the ability to exercise more control over their personal data and consumer behavior. 
“People getting rewarded [for] data, I love that,” said Napster CEO Jon Vlassopulos, prognosticating about what opportunities the next era of the internet might unlock for both consumers and companies. “It’s moving in the direction of providing data in exchange for value.” 
Vlassopulos joined other technology executives at a panel in Las Vegas this week, where he and peers traded ideas about what the metaverse and web3 might look like from a brand perspective. The panel was a CES-sponsored event — one of the year’s biggest tech conferences — and part of an all-day series called Digital Hollywood. 
“If I say I want to go to Iceland and somehow an airline gets that data and I allow them to have it, and they offer me a companion ticket to Iceland, that’s money in my pocket. That’s like magic,” said Vlassopulos, noting that some internet companies like Brave’s is already experimenting with ways to compensate people for online behavior. 
Vlassopulos’ comments come in an era where both consumers and regulators have never been more aware of — and in some cases perturbed to the point of taking countermeasures — by how internet companies have made billions from users’ personal data. In recent years, social media empires like Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, or the world’s largest search engine Google, have come under intense scrutiny for engaging in what has been called by some “surveillance capitalism.”  

Blockchain-enabled paradigm shift?


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Many have recently theorized how wider adoption of encrypted, blockchain technology would give people more options when it comes to managing and safeguarding both their digital identity and personal data. 

A new set of standards underpinned by blockchain technology could create a “paradigm shift,” according to Mary Hamilton, a technological innovation executive for global consulting giant Accenture. Hamilton is optimistic about a new model where people not only own their data, but also choose if and how to monetize that data. 
“It’s almost better for brands too. You’re allowing them to have the correct data, not a guess at who you are or an approximation, but who you really are,” Hamilton said. “And you allow it for the brands you trust, and you want to engage with.” 
Users already have been taking more ownership of how certain technology, like smartphone applications, monitor their behavior. Most famously, Apple recently implemented a system where iPhone users can choose if they want an app to track their behavior or not. The move could not only prove to be a watershed moment in online privacy policy; it's also causing Meta to lose billions of dollars in revenue as many users opt out of being tracked. 

While some might argue actively selling one’s personal data to different companies in pursuit of compensation conjures thoughts of a technological dystopia, metaverse enthusiast Brian Weiner believes his company Sizzle Network can improve the lives of consumers in a meaningful way. 

“Consumers are incentivized to sell data to the brands, and it puts them in the power seat,” the Sizzle Network CEO said during the panel discussion. “A lot of them are excited about having that income opportunity.”

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

RT Watson is a senior reporter at The Block who covers a wide array of topics including U.S.-based companies, blockchain gaming and NFTs. Formerly covered entertainment at The Wall Street Journal, where he wrote about Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. and the creator economy while focusing primarily on technological disruption across media. Previous to that he covered corporate, economic and political news in Brazil while at Bloomberg. RT has interviewed a diverse cast of characters including CEOs, media moguls, top influencers, politicians, blue-collar workers, drug traffickers and convicted criminals. Holds a master's degree in Digital Sociology.


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