Monday, 26 March 2012

Help fund us: call for sponsors for our work on standardised personal data licenses

We've had tremendous feedback from our proposal for a set of standardised personal data licenses to provide user clarity on privacy, as well as some constructive criticism that I genuinely welcome as part of the wider debate (I'll blog all of this later - UPDATE, see here).

We want to go ahead and develop the concept, but it will cost more than Julian or I can self-fund. We need to commission two studies to be sure of the user psychology and commercial demand before we even start with the legal side in drafting the terms for each of the licenses and finalising the iconography.

We hope to raise money from a mixture of crowdfunding, commercial sponsorship and selling shares in Open Digital Policy Organisation Limited.

We can't do anything without significant financial support

To put it bluntly, Open Digital is at a crossroads.

If we can't fund this project or find another ethical way of securing funding which doesn't tie us to vested corporate interests we can't continue as an independent voice promoting the open internet as a platform to benefit both ethical data businesses and the public alike.

It really is that simple. This is the model I tried to build.  I grew up with technology, I spent my 15-year career building connected technology, and the last 3 years advocating the benefits of open connected platforms.

But the risks can't be overlooked and technologists can't carry on blind to the growing public worries just as legislators can't carry on regulating the internet as if it's just an extension of TV or radio broadcasting.

We must work to further our understanding of how technology can be used and abused in order to make better well-informed policy decisions, and we are at the centre of that debate in the UK.

Since forming Open Digital just 10 months ago we have been involved at so many levels. Our first report (pdfgot a mention on page 2 of the FT, I have met with government ministers, been interviewed on prime time telly and spoken at meetings of senior telecom execs, legal and human rights conferences, social media policy workshops and in parliament.

We have responded to government consultations and are involved with every aspect of digital policy, from cyber security to child protection, copyright and privacy.

Yet we will have to park all our work within 7 weeks if we can't find a way forward on funding.  We won't exist in this form by the end of May unless we can crack the funding challenge. I have ploughed all my time and most of my own money into my own full-time research in this area for 3 years. (So if you can't help fund us, then... if you have a job going!)

We can't continue without significant financial support. It's that simple.  I'm particularly calling for shareholders and/or commercial sponsors who agree with our charter to support our work.

Project plan for the standardised personal data scheme

First we will commission 2 studies to guide the rest of the project:
  • Can a project like this change human behaviour; and if so, what elements are important to achieve maximum impact
  • Business attitudes to privacy and requirements from standardised licenses. 
We need to produce licenses that businesses will adopt, users will understand and will be effective in driving-down unecessary data capture.

We will then use the outcomes of the two studies to draft the licenses and finalise the iconography. This will include quite a lot of expensive legal advice - however we would be willing to partner with a suitable chambers or institution if any step forward.

Share sale

Should our scheme be successful, there is opportunity for sustainable commercial returns through growing our consultancy business helping companies who want to adopt our standard.

Potential investors should however note that, as an organisation dedicated to ethical business, we want to avoid accusations of profiteering from a protected monopoly.

We therefore pledge to hold the intellectual property from the standardised privacy policies project in trust, so that any suitably qualified global standards body can take ownership should this become too big for any company, however ethically minded that company sets out to be.

That said, there is plenty of scope to make fair returns.

The largest risk is of course non-adoption, but we hope like-minded investors will see the importance of this and our wider work at Open Digital and see the worthy contribution to the wider debate as helping balance the risk vs reward equation for investment.

Report sponsors

There is opportunity for 2-4 commercial sponsors to be involved with each of the two feasibility studies.

Any other ideas?

Seriously, just tell us:

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