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April 16, 2014

Is your data worth more than £288?

Dutch student auctions off personal data to raise privacy awareness.

By Ben Sullivan

A student has auctioned off his personal data in an online bidding frenzy that reached $350 (£288).

Shawn Buckles, a student from Holland, set up the auction to make a statement about the value of personal data. Information included in the auction consisted of personal records, location records, a calendar, social media conversations, browser history and emails.

Buckles told before the auction: "People don’t seem to understand that privacy and autonomy are very much related and that privacy is a necessity for developing one’s individual character and ethics."

Pointing out that people are giving away their information for free on services like Google and Facebook, as well as having government’s listen in on data, Buckles added: "We’re silently consenting to a surveillance state by making all this data available for free."

After 53 bids, The Next Web won the student’s data with its offer of €350, and the company will utilise the data to showcase the contentious issue of internet privacy at a conference.

Buckles has now written a blog post explaining his actions, in which he says: "Our right to privacy is at stake. Privacy is the right to live unobserved and undisturbed, and to decide for oneself what information one shares and with whom. Privacy is based upon a personal enviroment in which we can seclude ourselves.

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"Privacy is essential in shaping one’s identity. It enables us to make autonomous choices. Not freedom of speech but privacy is our right to freedom. Because, what’s the use of speaking our minds when we’re not able to make up our minds in the first place?"

Buckles calls the idea of having nothing to hide a fallacy. He goes on to say in the blog post: "What will happen if Hitler takes power tomorrow? Nobody’d be safe. He wouldn’t only know our location, networks and believes, also he could pretty accurately predict our behavioural patterns and our patterns of resistance. To flee or hide would be impossible. We’d be powerless. Whether we have something to hide is defined by the context in which we live."

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