Companies make hundreds of billions of dollars selling data tracking where you go and what you buy — here’s how one app lets you get a slice of the profits

  • Killi wants to give its users control of their data that’s collected and sold to companies — and have them get paid for it, too.
  • The app collects data from its users and sells it to companies, then splits the profits 50/50 with those users.
  • “The way in which people are collecting data and storing data is really under pressure,” said Neil Sweeney, founder and CEO of Killi.
  • Data privacy is top of mind for consumers and governments, which have been rolling out legislation like the EU’s GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act.
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Consumer data is constantly collected, packaged, and sold.

But an app called Killi puts consumers in control of the data that’s crucial for helping companies target ads  — and helps them get paid for it, too.

“What we think should happen is that visibility and control should include the consumer, because currently it doesn’t,” said Neil Sweeney, founder and chief executive of Killi.

Six in 10 Americans believe it’s impossible to go through daily life without having data collected, according to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center. And 81% of those surveyed don’t feel like they have control over what data is collected by companies.

And while it’s hard to pin down an exact number, consumer data is a growing market. Sweeney sees a trillion-dollar opportunity in the global data market. Including YouTube advertisements, Google reported $149 billion in advertising revenue in 2019. And Facebook reported nearly $70 billion of ad revenue in 2019, a 27% increase from 2018.

By 2022, revenues for big data and business analytics companies could reach $274.3 billion, according to research firm International Data Corporation.

Killi’s focus on consented data comes at a time when privacy is a growing concern for consumers and regulators.

Earlier this year, Google announced it will remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser in the next two years.

Jumpshot, an analytics firm, ceased operations after an investigation Vice and PCMag alleged its parent company Avast was selling people’s web browsing data without their consent to companies like Home Depot, Microsoft, and McKinsey.

And around the world, governments are passing laws intended to protect consumer privacy, especially online.

Laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have been enacted amid these growing consumer privacy concerns.

How Killi works

Killi is an app-based platform for companies to buy consumer data knowing that the consumers behind that data have consented to its sale. In addition to letting users choose when and what data they share, Killi splits the profits 50/50 with users that shared data that was sold.

Users are eligible to earn in two ways, which Killi calls active and passive. 

Active earnings come from users answering questions on various surveys. The companies and research firms who commission the surveys negotiate a price with Killi, and each user typically earns less than $1 per survey.

Killi Various surveys are offered through Killi’s app.

Killi


Passive earnings depend more on which data points users have enabled sharing. When companies come to Killi to buy its consumer data, Killi takes half of the proceeds and distributes the other half to users whose data was sold. 

Passive earnings are called “dividends,” and the feature was officially rolled out this week. Killi says that users can expect to earn between $1 and $5 each month, depending on how much data they passively share. Killi’s first data dividend was for location data, and paid to select users in January this year. 

“Location is a big one because location has been under pressure,” said Sweeney.

Tech giants like Apple are rolling out new features linked to users’ control over data, like notifications of apps that track locations on iPhones as part of its iOS 13 release last year.

In an effort to grow its user base and attract more data buying companies, Killi will continue to roll out passive data collecting modules.

Many of Killi’s data buyers are ad agencies, research firms, and data-management platforms used by consumer brands.

Consented financial data is another big draw for companies, and any data that sits inside “walled gardens,” said Sweeney.

“Inside of an Amazon or Netflix or Facebook, if you have an integration to those platforms, these are all where there’s a very high appetite,” said Sweeney.

Pinterest, Spotify, and financial data like credit card payments are next on Sweeney’s list for passive earnings, he said.

As Killi rolls out new integrations for financial data and walled gardens, users can enable data collection and earn more dividends.

Dividends are distributed weekly, and users are able to see which companies are buying their data on an ongoing basis.

Users can cash out their Killi earnings via PayPal or can redeem for Amazon gift cards. There will be more cash out options to come, according to the app.

Killi is a subsidiary of Freckle IoT, a marketing data company that analyzes the effectiveness of advertisements on channels like mobile, TV, and social media in driving customers to a targeted physical location.

Sweeney is also the founder and CEO of Freckle, which was founded in 2014 and went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in June last year. Freckle is not profitable, but full year revenue grew from $3.1 million to $3.5 million between 2018 and 2019.

Killi is currently available to users in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, and the US.

Consumer data is in the spotlight

“The way in which people are collecting data and storing data is really under pressure,” said Sweeney.

And that pressure — be it from governments, companies, or consumers — is part of Killi’s business model.

As consumers become more attuned to data privacy and sharing, Sweeney expects Killi to be well-positioned as a place for companies to access consented data.

Today, finding clearly consented data is hard, said Sweeney.

“We have 30 years worth of data architecture, which is really about amalgamating data in the background, unbeknownst to the consumer,” Sweeney said. “Killi was created to create transparency in a very corporate-driven black box or opaque data market.”

Killi offers companies what it calls “fair trade” data, Sweeney said, where the consumers are aware and compensated.

 

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