How consumers can earn money from their data
Catching up with Killi, an app with every consumer on the planet as a potential client.
“Our philosophy has always been that, in this multi-million dollar data market, the onus is unfairly on the consumer to try to find who has their data, to try to opt out — it’s just completely antiquated.”
Neil Sweeney was summing up the imperative driving Killi, a web and mobile app which gives consumers the ability not only to control the distribution of at least some of their data, but also to profit from its use by brands. Sweeney is founder and CEO of Killi, which was originally incubated within the offline attribution company Freckle IoT, which he also founded.
The irreversible privacy trend. The trend of protecting consumer data rights, given a big boost in Europe by GDPR, and now very much underway in the U.S. with CCPA, and now CPRA, is irreversible, Sweeney believes. “Consumer identity is the property of each individual consumer, so for an industry that has spent the last 20 years disintermediating the consumer from what is rightfully theirs, this is coming quickly to a close.”
The idea that consumers can manage all of their data, however, is a non-starter according to Sweeney. “The romantic notion of trying to give consumers control over all of their data — it doesn’t work, there’s just too much data; that genie is out the bottle.” Killi was launched to enable consumers to create an account, input their first-party data, and consent to sharing all or some of it: the reward for the consumer, cash compensation.
But the initiative didn’t start on the right track, Sweeney admits. “There was a bit of a disconnect: you should be compensated for your data, and by the way, here’s a survey.” Enriching the first-party data with information from surveys wasn’t viable — something Sweeney wishes he had figured out faster. “We know it doesn’t scale, it puts too much pressure on the consumer and creates too much fiction. Is it likely the consumers going to come into the product every day and complete a survey? No.”
Set it and forget it. Instead, Killi adopted a “set it and forget it” passive model, where consumers select what they want to share, and then that data is available to Killi clients. Participants receive a Killi Paycheck — an automatic weekly deposit to their Killi wallet reflecting the data they’re willing to give up (note: we are talking about a few dollars here, not a significant income stream).
To be clear, Killi does not offer consumers control over all their data. It doesn’t interpose itself between the consumer and Google, Facebook and all the countless data-scrapers out there — just control over data going to Killi’s clients. Brands and publishers can purchase Killi audiences, knowing that the data is compliant and consensually given, and that the consumers are compensated. Killi calls it “Fair Trade Data.”
In any case, Sweeney believes the days of anonymous data collection — the collection which goes on ubiquitously, with the consumer hardly aware of it — are numbered. “These [data broker] companies are going to zero, and the reason is that if you don’t have a way to interact with a consumer, how do you maintain explicit consent? They will all tell you they have a solution, but the reality is that they don’t.”
Raising awareness. Killi has 100 million accounts in the U.S. alone, but the question is surely, if it’s so easy to make money from a Killi account, why doesn’t everyone have one?
“Every single consumer over the age of 16 on the planet is a potential client of Killi, so the opportunity is enormous. I do think it’s a consumer awareness challenge. We’re trying to be the Uber or Warby Parker of data without overwhelming the consumer with technical jargon. When you look at Acorns or Robinhood, these are consumer-facing brands that have taken complicated industries [savings and trading, respectively] and made them consumer-friendly. We’re trying to do the same thing. We haven’t bought television or billboards, but that’s coming.”
A partnership with Narrative. Killi has partnered with selected data providers to deliver Fair Trade Data to their clients; most recently with enterprise data streaming platform Narrative. “They’re a company that works with big brands to help them navigate the data eco-system; they are the anti-data broker. If they are working with a company like The Trade Desk or Nielsen, rather than The Trade Desk or Nielsen having to amalgamate 20 different individual data sources like Killi, in 30 different countries, Narrative does all the data streaming and engineering on their behalf.”
In other words, it’s about distribution opportunities for Killi data. Killi already has direct integrations with MediaMath, LiveRamp, Lotame, Adsquare and others. “Now we’re in Narrative. Every additional spot furthers our agenda of trying to get our data into places where people are currently buying data so that we can begin to turn that crank on moving the share from non-compliant to compliant data.”
Why we care. Killi has big ambitions, but redirecting some of the profit from consumer data to consumers themselves seems a worthy aspiration.