October 15, 2013 / 10:20 PM / 5 years ago

Personal raises $4.5 million to be the personal data vault we so desperately need

If data is currency, today’s tech companies getting rich off our every online move.

Data privacy company Personal, however, wants to flip that around. The company, which creates a digital vault for personal data, is trying to create a future where Internet users — not tech companies — have full control over the data they create and share.

Or, as Personal CEO Shane Green put it, Personal is building the personal data graph we need right now.

“Our pitch is that the individual has to have a way to organize and leverage their data to power the experiences in their lives that they want,” said Green, who sold his previous company, The Map Network, to Nokia in 2006.

While Personal is obviously helping people store sensitive data like medical records and insurance info, it’s also protecting less sensitive data like the numbers that come off of your Fitbit.

But it’s what comes after that data is stored that’s the really important part. Rather than keep personal info locked up, Personal’s pitch is that users should share it — just on their terms. Once users use Personal to store data, they can then decide what services should have access to it. Think password managers, or even digital wallets.

Personal wants to be the point of integration between users and third parties.

Here’s another one of the more interesting examples: Imagine if users could voluntarily opt-in to sharing their demographic information with marketers, who could then use that data to generate more accurate targeted advertisements.

While advertisers are already tracking our online activity to serve us ads, Personal’s approach changes that dynamic from “opt out” to “opt in.” And that’s a shift that could end up trickling down to other web companies as well.

While Personal’s software only left beta in June, the company says its sub-100,000 user base is growing quickly. More, the company has also inked partnerships with multiple Fortune 500 companies, many of which are experimenting with cobranded data vaults that tap into Personal’s platform. (Frustratingly, Personal has yet to officially announce any of these partnerships, so it’s tough to gauge just how well it’s doing on that front.)

Overall, Personal offers a powerful, immensely timely product that’s helped it raise $20 million since 2009. (The latest bit of funding — $4.5 million– came just today.)

Green says that Personal’s short-term ambitions center around building out its partner team, developing more partner products, and greatly bolstering its online auto-fill software.

“If we have one killer app, it’s one-click form-filling. Health insurance forms, payments — anywhere there’s online forms, our goal is to remove the friction,” Green said.

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