Mike Audi, Founder and CEO of TIKI, Talks Data Privacy and Getting Paid for Your Data

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on June 4, 2021

The internet is indispensable to 21st century life, but if we had had a choice when it was all new, few of us would have chosen to be tracked online so that social media companies could become fabulously wealthy selling our data to marketers for their manipulative and freakishly personalized ads. It might be too late to unring that bell, but Mike Audi, founder of the TIKI privacy app, has not given up the fight.

TIKI can plug into various apps and determine what data is being collected on you, then allows you to simply turn privacy settings on or off. Tiki is rapidly developing a payment solution that will allow users to be paid for the use of their data. We emailed Audi some questions about online privacy and getting paid for the data others are selling about us.

The beta version of TIKI was released recently, and you have some intriguing features in the pipeline, including the ability to link with Gmail. Will people be shocked when they see the data they are giving up using Gmail?

Oh yes. We’ve found that once you peel back all the legal jargon and non-answer answers we’re used to getting from big companies and put it in ordinary words, people are more than shocked. Our team members were horrified to see the results. It’s one thing to know conceptually, but it’s a whole other emotional feeling when it’s right there in big Crayola-style letters.

In theory, the California Data Privacy Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Rule give individuals a lot of control over their personal data. In practice, exercising that control becomes a big job, especially for less tech-savvy people. How does TIKI help?

Data is a universal issue; we’re all being manipulated, exploited, and ripped off. You say, “exercising that control becomes a big job,” I ask why? Why does it have to be some big, confusing, complex, time suck? Data doesn’t have to be complicated; it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. It might feel counter-intuitive when building an app, but our goal is to make it so you use TIKI as little as possible. Everyone in the world can make the right decision for them about their data in a few seconds, IF given the right tools and information. We’re building TIKI specifically for everyone, not just techies & the privacy conscientious, not just the EU & CA. 

How does TIKI help individuals get paid for the use of their data?

Your data is valuable. You deserve fair compensation in exchange for it. 

The argument against this is, you get the service of Facebook in exchange for your data. But honestly, is it fair if it’s buried deep in a Privacy Policy and your only other option to avoid tracking is not using the internet? Apple started a trend to block more and more user data sales. On the surface, this feels just and right. However, the unintended consequence, which we’re already seeing, is it encourages companies to find shadier and more pervasive access to data.

With TIKI, we offer users and businesses an ethical, transparent alternative. In the app, users will choose which data they would like to monetize, which companies can purchase it, and for what use case, all 100% anonymously. Using mobile edge computing, we anonymize all user data before it ever leaves your phone, ensuring anything you do wish to monetize is safe. For businesses, they get access to unprecedented safe, clean, useable, up-to-date data. One of the dirty little secrets in tech is that we could make all of these products/services we use privacy-first, even anonymous. It’s just faster/easier to not.

What is TIKI’s own data privacy policy for people who install the app? How do you protect the data of YOUR users?

Our policy is simple. We don’t have your data! Your personal information is never stored in our cloud; we don’t even have something as simple as your email address. TIKI is built to be truly anonymous, or as the old saying goes, “if you don’t think you’ve been hacked, you’ve been hacked.” 

Your data is encrypted on your phone, with an encryption key only you have. If you chose to monetize your data, we do all of the anonymous calculations on your phone, ensuring that it can’t ever be traced back to you by the time it leaves your device. You don’t have to take our words for it; everything we do is open source, including published blogs on our architecture, design, and reasoning. 

What would be the implications for the data economy if TIKI became very widespread?

We know from history that transparent markets are better and safer for both buyers and sellers. Right now, middlemen like Google are in control. This changes in a future where users choose what happens to their data. Shady practices, poor security, and data mismanagement will decrease because users would rightfully cut them off. Maybe most importantly, we will all sleep a little better because we won’t stand for the use of our data to manipulate us into watching and inevitably yelling about on Twitter “just one more” YouTube conspiracy theory before bed.

When do you anticipate having TIKI available for download for the causal user?

Jan. 1, 2022. Over 100,000 people have already signed up to help us beta test TIKI. Over the next six months, we are building, testing, and refining. The goal is always to move faster, be better, than the day before.

Anything else you’d like to add here?

The problems with our data are only going to get a lot worse. But, together, we have the power to do something about it before it’s too late.

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is the Contributions Editor at Grit Daily. Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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