CitizenMe is a more ethical take on market research, with help from Sheffield-based A.I.

Martin Bryant, June 8, 2016 2 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

When CitizenMe first launched, it was an app that aimed to help you better understand the terms and conditions of popular online services, and take back control of your personal data.

That was a lofty goal – but one that didn’t quite appeal to a mass audience. There’s a reason why we skip though terms and conditions; we can’t be bothered with caring about them, even if they’re not always in our best interests.

In fact, London-based CitizenMe found that there was more interest in a ‘Facebook personality test’ within the app than any other feature. Now the startup is rebooting its offering with a focus on market research, psychoanalysis and big data, and they’ve got big help from the North.

A grant from Innovate UK has seen CitizenMe working with the University of Sheffield’s Open Data Science Institute as part of a project to improve the link between content and identity.

citizenme screenshots

The partnership sees Sheffield academics contributing open machine learning technology to work in the background of the app. The idea is that personal data should work on behalf of users, and not be exploited by corporations that may put their own sales goals ahead of users’ rights.

The first implementation of Sheffield’s neural network-based approach takes the form of a personality test within CitizenMe’s app that lets you compare yourself to other users.

If there’s one thing that’s clear about CitizenMe, it’s that they have an ethical approach to individual users’ rights around their personal information. That’s a commitment that has gone so far as to seeing the company set up an independent non-profit ‘Citizen Trust’ to oversee and promote the ethical transfer of personal data.

It’s ironic that CitizenMe has had to pivot into a market research app in order to make this ethical approach work, but it’s a more compelling product as a result. And it’s one that they say has already attracted the attention of banks, a telco and marketing agencies. The app will also be preinstalled on the forthcoming Wileyfox smartphones.

CitizenMe is available now on iOS and Android

Startup stories, Topics, Sheffield, Yorkshire, App & Software Development