A Man Tried Auctioning His Facebook Data On eBay

A Man Tried Auctioning His Facebook Data On eBay

It’s no secret that the products and services you know and love (or loathe) are all hawking your data to advertisers, making a few billion bucks off all those “free” services provided to you. But when it comes time to pad your pockets, you aren’t exactly getting a cut of the profits. So why not turn your data into dollars by selling it to the highest bidder yourself? And where better to sell off your digital avatar than the web’s favourite auction house, eBay?

Photo: Oli Frost Used with permission

That’s what writer and developer Oli Frost has tried, using Facebook’s own data export tool to create a one-stop shop for all his Facebook-related information and activity.

“I joined Facebook 10 years ago and just found out I’ve been selling me data for free all this time,” Frost told Gizmodo. “Why shouldn’t I get some of the cash?” To that end, Frost placed his Facebook data on eBay, where he listed for auction a flash drive with the contents of his data export.

Frost said he wasn’t going to keep the earnings from the auctioning of his Facebook data, and instead planned to donate it to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “who support online privacy and such”. The auction ends on Sunday, June 3.

Frost’s auction drew over 40 bidders and quickly reached £300 ($530). “Sell it to advertisers or whatever you want,” Frost said in the auction listing. Compared to Facebook, he already stood to make more money off his personal data than the company is. The company had over two billion monthly active users in 2017, according to its SEC filings released in April, but reported an average revenue per user of $US20.21 ($27). I’m no accountant, but it sounds as though Frost was putting that data to good use.

Here’s what the winner would receive, according to Frost’s eBay post:

What’s Included

  • Every like, post, and inane comment since I was 16.
  • Photos dating back to when I had a fringe and listened to Billy Talent.
  • Videos dating back to when my band played gigs at kids play centres.
  • A list of things I’m apparently interested in, including ‘Gluten-free diet’, ‘Jessie Ware’ and ‘Project management software’.
  • Stats on how many happy birthdays I got, year by year.
  • All my friend requests that got ignored.
  • Every party invite I’ve ever had (all three of them).
  • Loads more, like who I vote for, my boss’s name, and where all my family live.

Not included? “Permission to steal my identity and open a sweat shop.”

The threat of that information being used maliciously is always there, and Facebook data has been employed in the past by the company’s employees to stalk women, but Frost didn’t think the buyer would dig through his old posts hoping to find something scandalous.

“I’m sure they will be lovely though, and we’ll go for beers together,” said Frost. “I might throw in my browsing history in too as a stretch goal.”

What about the family-related information on his Facebook page? “Asked mum and dad and they’re all cool with telling people where they live,” Frost said. “I live with them anyway.” Talk about optimism.

Unfortunately, nothing good can last forever, and eBay removed the listing for Frost’s personal Facebook data from its site. Frost shared the message he received from eBay, which reads as follows:

Some of your listings haven’t followed our Mailing List and Personal Information policy.

Your listing is selling an account for Facebook, which is not permitted as most social networking companies have limitations in their terms of service that restrict the artificial boosting of another member’s following or popularity, or the sale of accounts with established followings. Given that, eBay as a company has decided not to allow listings that would facilitate or promote this type of activity. While we appreciate that you have chosen to utilise our site, we must ask that you please not relist this type of service.