Every time you use an Internet search engine, you're essentially "buying" search results and "paying" with personal information that helps search companies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) target ads to you. That's the picture painted by Alessandro Acquisti, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a recent New York Times article about a San Francisco startup called Bynamite. The tiny company wonders why Google, AOL (NYSE: AOL), and Facebook should get all the rewards from using your information.

"In essence, [Bynamite] has a libertarian, free-market ethos. If consumers have more power and control, it says, personal information should flow more efficiently to the benefit of both consumers and advertisers, who will be able to more accurately aim their ads," wrote article author Steve Lohr.

Bynamite is working on software that could let users see the information that's being gathered about them and then either tweak it to more accurately reflect what kinds of ads they want to see or sell it to interested parties.

This is a flip side to the ruckus over Facebook's privacy policy, Google Buzz's privacy missteps, and Yahoo Updates' special care to avoid such dustups. If the battle to keep a lid on what you do online is a losing one, the least people should do is keep up with what the ad-sellers "know" about them.

I'm not sure there would be a huge market among consumers for software like what Bynamite is developing, but maybe one of the big companies would want to use it for their own purposes.

Let us know in the comments box below what potential you see for such software.