Start-Up Company Turns Personal Data Into Charitable Donations

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What if you could donate to your favorite charity for free?

A start-up company with Minnesota ties is making that possible by using your shopping history and turning it to cash.

For Data Does Good CEO Scott Steinberg, the search for the perfect product begins on Amazon.com.

“I shop on Amazon about once a week, once every two weeks,” Steinberg said. “I buy a lot of different things. I buy food, I buy, you know, household things, paper towels and toilet paper.”

He has built an online shopping history through the convenience of click and deliver. It’s valuable information that’s ultimately helping his favorite charity.

“It’s an extremely easy way that doesn’t cost them anything to do good,” Steinberg said.

The 26-year-old Hopkins native co-founded Data Does Good with a fellow graduate student at Stanford University three months ago. The website allows you to take your shopping information and turn it into a charitable donation.

“So far, we’ve pledged to give in the tens of thousands of dollars, but by the end of the month we think that number will be much higher,” Steinberg said.

Here’s how it works: Customers agree to “donate” their online spending habits by uploading the information from their Amazon account. Data Does Good then pools that information and sells it to companies who use it to determine trends.

Fifteen dollars of that sale is then donated back to the nonprofit or charity of your choice each year. The whole process costs you nothing.

“A lot of this is happening kind of whether or not consumers realize or people realize, and we wanted to create a way that people can take part in that process and really get value from their own information,” Steinberg said.

He says there is also an educational component to the company since not all consumers are aware their data has value.

“Data is kind of a scary word,” Steinberg said. “It invokes a lot of emotions, so it’s fun to help people realize you have this information that’s really valuable and it can be used for good.”

Privacy and security is a priority to the company.

“When you donate, we completely strip anything that’s personally identifiable from your shopping history,” Steinberg said.

Data Does Good relies on general demographic details rather than sensitive personal information. Consumers give information like gender, age and city of residence when they register.

“This is key to making sure information is anonymized because we replace name and information with demographic information,” he said.

Steinberg says information is also encrypted, using industry-wide practices.

Data Does Good is focused right now on online shopping history, but Steinberg believes there is the potential for growth in charitable giving in other areas.

“The cool thing about your data is it becomes increasingly valuable when you can combine different types of information. In the short term, it’s value from shopping history but then we can expand to, say, Netflix viewing behavior or utility bills,” he said. “Using the same model, we can raise $30 per year for charity, $40 per year for charity all the way up to $150 years per charity.”

Click here for more information about Data Does Good.

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