Mine Startup Profile – Taking Back Control of Your Data

TechRound recently interviewed Gal Ringel, CEO of Mine, a revolutionary piece of technology that is changing the very face of data protection, management and control for everyone.

Mine, the first company to ever give people back ownership of their personal data online, has launched in Europe after spending the last year operating in stealth, having raised $3m in seed funding, backed by Battery Ventures and Saban Ventures. The innovative tech startup empowers internet users and hands them their data back. Mine, unlike the other reputation management and ‘data recovery’ companies out there do not seek to take people ‘off the grid.’

Mine take a refreshingly different and what is proving to be a more effective approach to being in control of your own data. With the average consumer possessing as many as 350 companies in their digital footprint (however, for some consumers it can be thousands), Mine are clearly onto something very big and have already sent over 230,000 data requests from over 36,000 global, digital users.

Working with companies that hold customer data (the likes of Netflix, other subscription services and businesses we frequently engage with such as high street brands or airlines), Mine are changing the way our data is held and used online for the better.

Part of what makes Mine so interesting and different is that they don’t seek to be aggressive in their approach to taking back control of data and they haven’t geared their service or technology to tech savvy people; Mine is for anyone and everyone. Also, rather than trying to scare companies holding customer data with ‘legalese’, they are seeking to (and already do) work with, rather than against all data-controlling companies, to help them comply with the request with a better cost-effective way and less manual work.


Who Are the Brains Behind Mine?

Founded by Gal Ringel, Mine’s CEO, Gal Golan, Mine’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Kobi Nissan, Mine’s Chief Product Officer (CPO), Mine is a company whose ‘people’ are as well equipped to tackle the issues we face with our own data head on. Unlike standard forms of reputation management software and companies, none of the founders of Mine come from a PR background.

This is certainly an advantage, as rather than simply caring about ‘perceptions,’ they are more than on top of the technical and practical details and implications. The power and sheer simplicity of Mine and how it works is testament to their shared experiences and expertise.

Ringel and Golan both have extensive cybersecurity experience, having held leadership roles in the world-renowned Israeli Cyber Intelligence Unit 8200, as well as working at top tech firms such as Nielsen, Verizon and Microsoft. Having both worked with personal data in various forms throughout their careers, Mine’s founders all spotted a gaping hole in the data industry; the power to easily and understandably navigate the internet on the consumer’s terms.

Nissan brings years of global experience in data analytics and product strategy from Accenture and King Digital Entertainment. Nissan holds an MBA from INSEAD and spent time as a VC investor with Saban Ventures. Ringel has also spent time as a VC investor and was voted on the Forbes Israel 30 under 30 list in 2017.

What Challenges are Mine Overcoming?

Having been at the forefront of arguably the world’s greatest challenge, cybersecurity, in one of the world’s most effective and well-equipped military services, as well as the consumer gaming space, the founders set about working on an effective and simple way in which otherwise difficult to understand data regulations around the world, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could be navigated.

Speaking to Ringel, no piece of data legislation he mentions from any corner of the world seems complicated and this is precisely what Mine is working towards achieving.

As he succinctly puts it: “People are sick of hearing about ‘privacy’ and ‘cookie consent’…for example, there are seven rights to the GDPR legislation, but who can name even one of those rights? One of the key aims of Mine is to bring the enjoyment back to people using the internet; not to take you off the grid and make you disappear.

One of the key elements, yet one of the most underused aspects of the GDPR is the ‘Right to be Forgotten.’ This data right is one which although everyone is free to exercise, is rarely even alluded to. Mine however, makes the entire right to be forgotten easy and straightforward. So much so, that in their first 30 days, they were inundated with customers sending hundreds of thousands of Right to Be Forgotten Requests.

How the Tech Behind Mine Works

Mine is truly unique. It is as intricate as it is simple; not an easy balance to strike. The cutting-edge technology behind Mine empowers people to find and vitally, reclaim the trail of information they’ve left on the internet from signing up to online services, downloading apps and making online purchases, etc.

Allowing users to truly see and understand the full extent of their digital footprint, Mine shows you which companies hold your data, and vitally, what information is being collected altogether. The technology behind Mine is simply genius.

As Ringel puts it: “Every company and website will have a privacy policy, but who actually reads and understands it? That’s where we come in…we use machine learning to read and actually learn not just the privacy policy of every company, but the data controller’s details and process by which you can legally remove your data…”

How Does Mine Utilise Machine Learning?

There are various steps that Mine goes through to reclaim and take back control of your data. First and foremost is the understanding of the privacy policies and local data protection laws which all companies around the world, no matter their place of residence or jurisdiction will need to adhere to.

Mine’s machine learning ties in closely to our underlying algorithm [developed by Mine, for Mine] to undertake a true and effective data recovery process for all consumers and customers. The information is all taken initially from the privacy policy of each company…it doesn’t matter where in the world they are, they will have some form of privacy and data policy we can learn…”

The technology continues to learn and is becoming cleverer than you might think. The machine learning aspect of Mine means that it is constantly scouring the web for company privacy and data control policies. Thus, when a customer wishes to clean up their digital footprint using Mine, like a doctor who has studied their field, Mine simply implements the relevant policy through their algorithm.

Mine has already analysed more than four million digital services in order to relay to users precisely which parts of their data are being stored and collected by different services. Moreover, Mine discovered that the average users have 350 companies in their footprint, out of which, more than 80% of the services are unused and can be deleted; a strong indication as to the extent of how little we are in control of our personal data.

Doesn’t This All Mean That Mine Inadvertently Collects Customer Data?

Rather than tricking clients and customers into handing over data that they may then sell or use as they please, Mine does not hold or store any of their customers’ data unnecessarily or immorally.

Rather, as part of their discovery phase, where they compile and analyse your digital footprint, their technology simply finds traces of any company you have signed up or interacted with, via your email inbox using only the email subject, from address and metadata. Mine can use that to help determine the next steps without having read the actual email contents. In fact, Mine does not keep any trace of the emails nowhere and process everything in-memory, to respect their user’s privacy. Mine is inline with GDPR and CCPA and is very transparent about everything they do.

Ringel says: “Just like most companies will have a privacy policy, so too, they will have sent you some kind of email and we can use this to help you and take back control of your data…we use this as part of the process to reach out, in good faith to the companies holding your data, requesting they remove it. Because Mine works with customers, the email, generated by Mine’s algorithm is much more natural; it comes from you and not from us, as a third party…Using Mine and the very process of reclaiming your data should never be scary. It should, and always is a very positive and empowering experience for everyone involved… It’s our data.”

The team behind Mine

Taking Back Control of Your Data with Mine in Practice

Using their non-intrusive machine learning algorithms, unlocking the power in users’ email inboxes, Mine finds those digital traces that companies have left through previous or on-going relationships. It does this without processing or collecting any personal data related to the user. Mine never reads, collects or stores any email content (or holds any individuals’ data) and is committed to using the absolute minimum information in order to provide its service.

Mine then gives users ownership over their data by leveraging global privacy regulations, specifically the GDPR “right to be forgotten” clause, which allows users to request that online services delete their data. For an everyday person, there is no simple way to enforce the “right to be forgotten” which is one of the key reasons why Mine was built. If a user wants a digital service to forget them, Mine sends a reclaim request to each company on the users’ behalf, asking them to delete all records of the person’s data from their systems.