With a promise to get money for their data, 80,000 users have signed up for a TIKI app. Its founder, long-time scientist Mike Audi, is committed to taking them off the grid completely or making companies pay users for their data.
Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, believes that our data is the most valuable asset, worth even more than gas and oil, and therefore, we should get paid for it.
“It has been very difficult for us to ensure that we have our human right to privacy. What is the easiest law to enforce? It is property law. Around the world, if you own something like your property, you have a lot of rights over what happens to it. We are to own our data just like we own any other important asset, like our car or our house,” Kaiser once said.
Mike Audi carries a similar idea. He believes that our data is being used against us as users, and we are being manipulated, exploited, and taken advantage of.
“We see companies use our data to make money selling ads, and they may sell it to the business that we don't want to have our data, or they may improperly store it and then get hacked and leak all of our credit card data. There is misuse, mistrust, abuse, both implicit and explicit,” he told CyberNews.
Audi believes all of the problems originate from the fact that we, as users, have no say in what happens to our data.
“We just do not. We use the internet, companies start taking our data, and they decide what they want to do with it. Never does a user get a say, saying, hey, I do not want you to do this with it, or I am ok with you doing this. I truly believe that is what is broken with the internet,” he said.
What if it’s too late to protect your data?
We might be very protective of our personal information, but what are the chances that it has not been yet leaked? 533M Facebook users’ data is circulating the web practically for free, Scraped data of 500 million LinkedIn users being sold online, and 1.3 million scraped Clubhouse user records leaked online for free. Who knows in what other leaks our data is ending up. Even so, Audi believes it is not too late to protect yourself.
“The most valuable data is today's data. Even if you fix the problem today, it will start getting better immediately. Every day you move forward in time, and the old data becomes less and less valuable. I believe that is why we have to fix it now. It is only going to get worse, and there will be more data and more leaks. If we do not do something about it pretty soon, it is going to be very hard to recover from because it is a big issue,” Audi said.
What data is most valuable to businesses? Email addresses are not that useful, and what companies are looking for is information about your behavior - what do you do, where do you go, what do you like, what are you searching for.
“That tells them what to show you next, what to get you to do next, when to talk to you to get you engaged with something. That data is far richer, there is far more of it, and it is collected everywhere you go. That is what cookies are doing. Cookies are tracking where you went, what you did on the internet,” he said.
Audi believes that businesses have to fix this problem, as legislation cannot outpace or even keep up with the technology.
“I think we have to fix it from business and technology. It is going to take a blend of both of those to fix it. I do not think technology just by itself fixes it because you have a big problem with technology standards and getting them adopted. There is no motivation for Facebook to want to participate in changing anything. If there is no money, they couldn't care less. You have to build a new model where they can make money, and you can protect users' privacy and data,” Audi said.
Users deserve to get paid for data
With that in mind, Audi started developing an app called TIKI. Its premise is quite simple - you download the app, link there as many apps as you want, for example, Facebook, Google, Spotify, and a dozen others, and change your privacy settings for all the apps in one place.
“We will tell you what data they are collecting on you and what data you have. We allow you to control your privacy easily from one place. We standardize all your privacy settings in one place so that you do not have to go through all the apps. I have 80 apps. If I would have to go and change privacy settings in all of them, it would take me a week,” Audi explained.
You can also mark whether you want to sell your data to third parties or not. If yes, you can also choose what businesses can have your data and what they can do with it. TIKI is not storing any user data. Instead, it runs the model on a personal device, extracts anonymous insights, adds them to the TIKI graph, and then offers that data to businesses.
“The model is built to understand what you prefer, what you like. Insight models are run on your phone, and the resulting insight is aggregated in an anonymized way and sent to the company. That way, your personal information never leaves us, does not go to our cloud, you can hack our cloud, and you would not have any user data. It is by design user-first at all times and private,” Audi explained.
The anonymized data will be available for businesses to purchase. But Audi does not want big companies to have more data on you. His idea is to bring this data to small businesses that could positively benefit from those insights.
“By design, we are not going to any big companies. We believe data should be available in the right context to everybody. We are trying to make the data analytics and insights available to not Fortune 500 companies, but all the smaller players in the market,” Audi said. User will have a say in who can have his anonymized data - he could choose, for example, a small bar to have it and refuse to sell the data to the government.
More than 80,000 people have signed up for TIKI. Yet, only some of them actually can use the app as it is slowly rolling out to a broader audience. It is supposed to reach everyone who has signed up this summer when all the bugs are fixed.
Are TIKI users choosing to stay private or sell their data?
“Our users generally fall into one of the two buckets. One is making me completely anonymous, everything you can do to take me off the grid. The other half is like, if you can sell my social security number, I will let you do it. Most of our users now are very extreme in terms of ‘I do not want you to have my data or sell everything I have’,” Audi said.
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