A Digital Bill of Rights By the People, For the People

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

The Obama Administration unveiled today its long-awaited framework for online privacy, Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World. The result is a bold and thoughtful step in the right direction, and it will make an impact, regardless of whether Congress acts. It’s another sign that power on the Internet is shifting toward individuals and away from companies.

There’s still much more to do:

1.  In talking about reform and creating a new model, we must put individuals firmly at the center of the framework. This means giving them the tools to drive demand for their valuable data resources to transform the current model into a “user-centric” one. With individuals truly in control – and looking out on the world from their perspective – every other principle and right about privacy falls into place.

2.  While the framework will require companies to re-evaluate their data practices and conform to new standards, what about our government’s obligations in handling our data? The Obama Administration has been impressively forward-looking in this arena – particularly with veterans, education and health record data – but it seems that individuals care as much about what the government knows about them as they do about companies.  We need rules for government, too.

3.  Actual citizens need a seat at the table alongside the privacy advocates, law enforcement representatives, companies and academics that will help establish codes of conduct.  If the framework is being constructed for the benefit of individuals, don’t we deserve a say in the matter, too? Perhaps the final say?

To make the last point a reality, we’re taking matters into our own hands.  In a few weeks at SXSW in Austin, Texas, I will join my friend, Anne Bezancon, founder and CEO of Placecast to create – with other SXSW attendees – a Bill of Rights “by the people, for the people” that we would expect both companies and the government to respect. If you will be attending the conference, please join us for our interactive Sunday afternoon session, We the People: Creating a Consumer’s Bill of Rights. Please also check out the session by our CTO, Tarik Kurspahic, on building a “privacy by design” company.

What is your personal data really worth?

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

New York Times reporter Joshua Brustein provides a great introduction to the model that Personal and companies like us are developing in “Start-ups Aim to Help Users Put a Price on Their Data.” However, a central question remains unresolved: what is the true economic value of personal data?

No one knows the answer – yet – because no fair market exists for individual data.  The question raises the possibility that, if it’s not very much, people are unlikely to care enough to change their behavior. We believe there are a host of non-economic reasons that people will want to proactively manage their data (time savings, greater privacy, less friction, making better, faster decisions, etc.), but the question of determining economic value is critical.

New York Times photo of Personal team

The current model is built for companies, not people

Some look for clues to the average annual revenue per user for Google and Facebook. These “free” services, whose advertising revenue is based largely on personal data, earn $24 and $4 respectively per person every year. But is $28 enough to motivate people to change their behavior and do a lot of work? Maybe not.  But it is the wrong question. Properly used, we believe companies like Personal will be able to prove your data, when tied to a single purchase, can create 10-20x the value that Google or Facebook can over a year.

The current paradigm is entirely dysfunctional and inefficient from the perspective of the individual. For example, the Direct Marketing Association says over 97% of online advertising fails to reach the right person at the right time. The pennies from the 3% success rate may add up for companies exploiting data across millions of people, but it requires a number of unsustainable practices, such as the increasingly invasive and sometimes unethical tracking of people. It also requires that they co-opt your attention and time and resell that along with your data to others trying to reach you.

The emerging user-centric marketplace

What might a user-centric marketplace look like and how much economic value can a person realize in a year?

First, you need a marketplace that respects the sanctity of one’s data, time (time is money, after all), privacy and identity (anonymity is the default). The technologies, business rules, and legal and privacy protections must be created nearly from scratch to protect the individual. (Our CTO, Tarik Kurspahic, will present at SXSW on building a privacy-by-design platform).

Second, the marketplace would focus on commercially relevant data such as your brand, travel or clothing preferences, along with data about your intent to buy something (also known as purchase intent).  These two types of data alone can fundamentally change data economics when combined with a controlled marketplace to reach you when and how you want to be reached.

This last point is key. We do not support the idea of people “selling” personal data. Rather, we believe such data can be used in a safe environment to connect people with companies with highly relevant products, services and even content and information. Doc Searls and others have referred to this idea as Vendor Relationship Management (VRM). Companies that play by these new rules will have the most direct and positive channel ever created to reach people, including their existing customers.

People can realize thousands of dollars per year

Finally, we believe companies that earn your business (and those who don’t) will be willing to compensate individuals for having the chance to interact with qualified buyers of their particular good or service.  This far more efficient marketplace can easily add up to thousands of dollars annually as people realize the full benefit of their data, time and purchases. That should move the needle for just about anyone.

We appreciate the serious attention being focused on this emerging space by the New York Times, as well as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, AdAge, AdWeek, Forrester Research, MIT Tech Review, The Washington Post, TechCrunch, Mashable, the Harvard Business Review and others. It is an idea that will ignite untold innovation and benefits for each of us.

Data With Benefits: Our Open Beta Launch

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

Open Beta T-shirts

11.11.11

I don’t want to overplay the significance of today’s date, or the fact that our web and mobile web service went live in open beta at 11:11 am GMT and was announced on Twitter for the first time at 11:11 am EST. What matters is that after two years of hard core work on a totally new kind of platform, we’re out there.

Our Android and iPhone apps will be launched later this month. We will be promoting our launch in the coming weeks once the mobile apps are out given the importance of the full mobile experience to our personal data vault and private network products.

We also have a new web site and an updated look to our brand, thanks to our new marketing team.  In case you missed it, you can read about the team, which includes former execs from Nike and AOL, and a new advisory board member from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, in our announcement.

We really appreciate all of the people who signed up and used Personal during our closed beta. Your engagement and feedback was awesome! Among the improvements you’ll see are:

Countdown clock–  More ways to easily import data, including community gems created by Personal owners and partners. We are especially excited about what community gems can do to allow people to share knowledge and structured data with each other. You can read more in the gemware section on our site.

– Personal network snapshots for every contact and gem so people can quickly see who has what data in their life, and what they’ve received from others. This is like your personal data graph, so you can quickly and easily see all of your data relationships in life.

–  Our “Form Killer” app to instantly fill out forms online and off. This is the first true app built on top of our platform, and we think it can be huge. Imagine not having to fill out any more forms. Our developer program will be launched soon and more apps are on the way.

–  Identity management gems to help people control how others know them in Personal and elsewhere. We are excited about being a leader in this growing area.

We really liked this article in AdAge Digital yesterday called “Personal Data is the New Oil.” It’s not surprising that those in the advertising world are among the first to get how disruptive – and ultimately beneficial – Personal and companies that believe in a people-centric data model can be to creating win-win outcomes for commerce and advertising.

We can’t wait to hear what you think about the new product! Tell us at feedback@personal.com.

Shane & the entire Personal team

Washington, DC & Sarajevo

Seeing the Forrester for the Trees

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

As recently as a year ago, many of my colleagues and friends told me they just didn’t understand what Personal was trying to do. What did it mean to own and control your data? Why was data even important to a person? Why would companies, particularly marketers, ever embrace transparency and empowering individuals with their data when exploiting that data is at the core of their business model?Forrester logo

What a difference a year makes.

Amid the many positive developments and increasing coverage of this issue, such as The Wall Street Journal’s courageous “What They Know” series, comes the excellent new Forrester Research report Personal Identity Management by Fatemeh Khatibloo, which was released this past Friday.

The report is not only a must read for those who want to understand the complex dynamics at play in this space, but it provides an accessible framework that will help companies prepare for the transformational empowerment of individuals that is already underway. Download the report.

You can also read Khatibloo’s blog on the report at Forbes.com.

A World Without Borders – Customer Data in Bankruptcy

Here is the link to my post in the Personal company blog on how customer data should be treated in bankruptcy: http://blog.personal.com/2011/09/a-world-without-borders-–-customer-data-in-bankruptcy

We don’t have this issue at Personal as individuals own their data from the start when using our data vault service (thus there would be no “customer data assets” for us to sell were the company to go out of business), but I expect it to become a bigger and bigger issue in the coming years.

Personal Closed Beta

Personal is sending out the next round of invitations for our closed beta. Making it easy, fun, safe and beneficial to own and manage your data is an ambitious goal, and we will only get there with your help.

If you have signed up and receive an invitation (we are working our way through the 10,000+ on our list), we hope you will register and take a good look at what we are doing and share your candid and constructive feedback.

To see how the product works before registering, check out our video on the front page of www.personal.com.

Our closed beta starts with the most foundational level of functionality – aggregating and organizing the data about your life in a data vault, easily retrieving that data from any computer or device, and granting permission to people you trust. Think of it as your own private data network designed to help you maximize the efficiencies and benefits of your data.

As you explore the product, we would love to hear specifically about:

Your Experience –Were you able to add gems, data and contacts and grant access? Were you able to do what you wanted to do in the system?  What can we improve?

Gems – Which gems did you find the most useful and why? Which gems were less useful and how could they be made better? What new gems would you like to see?

Utility – How useful is Personal? On a scale of 1-5, how likely are you to use it in your daily life and recommend to others? (1 – not at all; 5 – loved it and want to help launch the revolution)

Of course, entirely new ideas are more than welcome.

Please send your feedback to feedback@personal.com or feel free to post comments here.

Personal Receives pii2011 Innovator Spotlight Audience Choice Award

When you spend almost two years working on something, and you show it for the first time to a room full of 250 experts, you start to reconnect with long-forgotten anxieties from, say, your first day at a new school. And when the internet connection for the live demo fails, albeit momentarily, you are right back on your first date trying to remember even the most basic details about your life.

Thankfully, Personal’s debut at pii2011, the Privacy Identity Innovation conference, was well received by a patient and supportive audience, who selected us and PassTouch (a super cool visual touchscreen login app) for the Innovator Spotlight Audience Choice Award. Given all of the thoughtful people and companies in the room working on this historical shift towards a user-centric data ecosystem, we are thrilled to get this recognition.

I have a lot of competing reflections from the conference. At times I have complete confidence that the company-centric data ownership model will change quickly now that  public awareness is growing so fast and real alternatives are emerging. But I also appreciate how hard it will be to align all of the good intent from so many different players, some of whom are still thinking too incrementally, while the current model continues to accelerate wildly (I couldn’t help but notice LinkedIn’s meteoric IPO updates while listening to the speakers).

Finally, please check out Personal’s new web site and videos at www.personal.com to let me know what you think. We spent a lot of time and effort trying to make our product and vision accessible to people who are not experts. They are the ones who have to buy in to this model for it to ever have a chance of succeeding.