How Much Would You Sell Your Social Media Data For?

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Sep 8, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Sep 8, 2021

Created by Security.org

You may not know this, but social media companies like Facebook and Instagram make a significant portion of their revenue by selling users’ data to data collection companies, who then sell it to other third parties for targeted advertisements. That explains why, once you like something on Facebook, you may see ads pop up for it everywhere you go online. But while the social media and data collection companies profit off of user data, the user doesn’t see a penny, which is why we researched how much people would sell their social media data for. After asking 3,000 adults in the U.S, we found that the average citizen would sell their data for just over $2,000. But if you want to see data from your state specifically, simply click on “Select another state” to view the results.

What Data Social Media Companies Collect

Unlike us, you probably haven’t spent hours perusing the privacy policies of all the biggest social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. What exactly do these companies collect from users, and what do they do with that information, anyway?

Facebook

Facebook, the ubiquitous website and app started by then-Harvard student Mark Zuckerburg in 2004,1 collects the following data from their users:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Payment information
  • Email address
  • Stored videos and photos
  • Photo and file metadata
  • IP address of device
  • Networks and connections
  • Messages
  • Content
  • Videos watched
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Time, frequency and duration of activity
  • People you communicate or share content with
  • Sensor data from device

As you might remember from the Cambridge-Analytica scandal of 2018,2 Facebook is infamous for selling its users data to third parties. While this data is anonymized, it’s still being used to create targeted advertisements, which some users may not prefer.

Twitter

Twitter, another popular social network, collects a ton of data from their users, including:

  • Name
  • Username
  • Password
  • Phone number
  • Emails the user writes and receives
  • IP address of device
  • Browser and device type
  • Carrier name
  • Operating system
  • Messages
  • Content
  • Videos watched
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Video and audio information, if audio features are used
  • Time, frequency and duration of activity
  • People the user communicates and shares content with
  • Activity on third-party sites and apps
  • Browsing history
  • Privacy settings
  • Time zone
  • GPS location

Information from third party marketing partners and advertisers.

Clearly, Twitter shares user data with advertisers, but one thing you can do is control which of your interests, characteristics and device identifiers the advertisers can see.3

How To Protect Your Personal Data

While we can’t make money from our social media data currently, there are a number of tools you can use to prevent it from being used in the first place.

NordVPN Mac App Screenshot
NordVPN Mac App Screenshot

VPNs

A VPN, for example, will hide your web traffic from your Internet Service Provider as well as hide your devices’ IP addresses; learn more in our VPN guide or our best VPN list.

Identity Theft Protection

Another way to make sure that your social media data isn’t being used for identity theft is to invest in the best identity theft protection. Learn more in our identity theft buyers guide, or even read about child identity theft specifically.

Sure, we don’t have total control over what data social media companies take from us, but with the best digital security practices, we can make identity theft, phishing, and hackings less likely.

Citations
  1. History Channel. (2004). Facebook launches.
    history.com/this-day-in-history/facebook-launches-mark-zuckerberg

  2. New York Times. (2018). Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: The Scandal and the Fallout So Far.
    nytimes.com/2018/04/04/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-scandal-fallout.html

  3. Twitter. (2020). Additional information sharing with business partners.
    help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security/data-through-partnerships