Every home in the UK receives an average of 650 pieces of junk mail a year, according to government figures. That's on top of the many sales calls, texts and emails many of us receive.
So it probably won't come as a surprise to you to hear that your data is being sold for profit. Most of us will have experienced buying something from a company only to receive advertising from a number of similar firms after our details are sold on.
But a new business claims to be able to stop the deluge of unwanted marketing, and even to let you profit from the value of your data.
Profit from unwanted post?
ALLOW is a company that removes members' names from marketing lists enabling them to reduce the number of unwanted calls, emails and junk mail they receive.
The free service also gives you the chance to sell your own data and make some cash. Once you've signed up, you can choose which businesses can see and use your data, and how long for. This means you can accept only relevant marketing messages - stuff you're really interested in - and take a cut of the money that changes hands at the same time. It can even be for the very short term. For example, if you're trying to pick your summer holiday then you could temporarily sign up to receive travel offers. You get information you want plus you'll be rewarded for sharing your data. Companies value your details much more than information they may have bought elsewhere because you have already expressed an interest in buying their product. How much could I make?
The amount of cash you can earn through this scheme depends hugely on the amount of data you're willing to share, as well as your shopping habits and wealth.
It's also worth noting that you make more cash when you go ahead with a purchase off the back of the marketing you've received through ALLOW. For example, take a middle-income 35-year-old mum with two kids who books a holiday to Disneyland, buys a new TV, and takes out car and medical insurance all in the same year. ALLOW claims this could earn her £325 if she finds the companies she uses to buy these items through its website. Similarly, a graduate student who buys a laptop, printer and mobile phone in one year could get up to £150. You receive £10 just for signing up (although you can't claim that until you've earned a further £25 through the site) plus an extra pound for every friend you recommend and who signs up.
What are my other options?
If you don't want to use ALLOW, there are other ways to restrict the amount of marketing you receive.
The best way is clearly to be very circumspect about the amount of data you share willingly. For example, online competitions tend to be exercises in data capture, so be very careful about where you're entering your details online. It's always worth reading the small print to find out how your information is going to be used and whether or not it will be shared. Consumer Focus has set up a free, not-for-profit service that allows you to opt out of a number of direct marketing campaigns, called StayPrivate.org. It will sign you up to the Mail and Baby Mail Preference Services (women who have had children will know how many businesses start bombarding them with baby-related marketing) as well as the Telephone and Fax Preference Services. However, it cannot enable you opt you out of receiving marketing from overseas websites, leaflets from local businesses, mail addressed to 'The Occupier' or spam. Any businesses that already have your permission to advertise to you will continue to do so until you ask them to stop.
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