Online companies and apps make a lot of money on user data, but consumers don’t see any of it. Ad tech firm Freckle IoT wants to change that. It has launched a blockchain-based app called Killi that allows consumers to deliberately hand over their data or participate in marketing surveys in exchange for financial compensation.

The Toronto-based company offers applications that help companies measure how their online ad campaigns affect in-store sales. Clients include Coca Cola, Lowe’s, Walmart, General Motors, Unilever and Mondelēz.

Freckle IoT has been offering Killi on Apple’s App Store and Google Play and formally announced the app Tuesday.

Consumers who download it can opt in to share their data with brands that work with Freckle IT. In return, they will get paid each time their data is purchased. The contract between brand and consumer will be written on a blockchain and is therefore both secure and unchangeable, the company says. Users can also get paid by participating in surveys.

Concerned Consumers

Killi is coming to market not long after Facebook faced a huge outcry over the way its user data were gathered by research firm Cambridge Analytica to deliver targeted messages during the most recent U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, companies such as Equifax and Yahoo! have lost millions of customer records. More recently, the European Union launched the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires any firm doing business in or with the EU to follow much stricter opt-in policies for using consumer data.

If popular, the app will not only address data privacy issues but help market the value of blockchain itself.

“I wasn’t expecting Cambridge Analytica or the Equifax hack, but I was expecting the general theme of that to happen,” Freckle IoT CEO Neil Sweeney tells ThirtyK. “It sort of solidified that consumers care about privacy. There is this widely held belief that the new generation doesn’t care about privacy, but I don’t think that’s true. When you start to shine the light on how people’s data was used, people were freaked out.”

Killi won’t protect consumers from how their data is collected or used by other apps, so consumers still need to be wise in managing their privacy settings for them.

But with Killi, consumers know exactly what their opting in for, and Freckle IoT says that Killi acts as a “data locker” because it keeps data on users’ devices, instead of in company servers. If users delete the app, brands will no longer be able to use it.

“Storing identify in a centralized way is a Betamax idea. One day we will look back and wonder how we could have been so foolish to store everything behind a single firewall,” Sweeney says. “In that sense, the rise of blockchain is a seminal moment.”

No Data Aggregators Allowed

Freckle IoT says the price brands will pay consumers will range from 10 cents to “a couple of bucks,” although that could change in time. Consumers can’t pick and choose which of Freckle IoT’s clients can use their data, but data aggregators (such as MX or Quovo) will not be invited, Sweeney says. Freckle IoT will make money from Killi by taking a 15 percent cut of the money brands pay to users.

If Killi proves popular, Sweeney suggested the app will not only address data privacy issues but help market the value of blockchain itself. In contrast to what he called “science fair projects and get-rich-quick schemes,” Sweeney says Freckle IoT is focused on making the technology more accessible to the public.

“We’ve seen a lot of guys doing identity (management), but they overcomplicated it by focusing on things like tokens, which is an impossible thing to scale because you need to understand token mechanics,” he says.

Shane Schick
Shane Schick is veteran journalist who covers lifestyle, business and technology issues. He is the editor-in-chief of the Canada-based B2B News Network and Chair of the 2018 Blockchain Summit in Canada.