This Man Auctioned His Facebook Data on eBay

By Patrick Lucas Austin on at

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 pounds off all those “free” services provided to you. But when it comes time to pad your pockets, you’re not exactly getting a cut of the profits. So why not turn your data into cash 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?

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

“I joined Facebook ten years ago and just found out I’ve been selling my 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’s auctioning a flash drive with the contents of his data export. (Sadly, the listing has now been removed.) Frost said he wouldn’t keep the earnings from the auctioning of his Facebook data and would instead donate it to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “who support online privacy and such.”

Frost’s auction drew over 40 bidders and reached £300 before being removed. “Sell it to advertisers or whatever you want,” Frost said in the auction listing. Compared to Facebook, he’s already making more money off his personal data than the company is. The company had over 2 billion monthly active users in 2017, according to its US Securities and Exchange Commission filings released in April, but reported an average revenue per user of $20.21. I’m no accountant, but it sounds like Frost put that data to good use.

Here’s what the winner received, 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 doesn’t think the buyer will dig through his old posts hoping to find something scandalous. “I’m sure they’ll 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.

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