Category Archives: privacy

Response to Gillmor: With Facebook and Google+ now dueling for your ‘persona’ — is it time for the Information Trust Exchange?

Arizona State journalism professor and Knight chair holder Dan Gillmor is calling for an effort to “federate” identity management on the web:

“What I’d like to see, and would support with my money, is a collection of open-source, community-driven, federated services that achieved the same goals without putting our data and content into the hands of a few large and increasingly powerful companies. I suspect I’m not alone in wanting this. Are there enough of us to matter? And if so, are developers listening?”

He wrote that as the last paragraph to a blog post at The Guardian (U.K.) entitled: “Google+ forces us to question who owns our digital identity: Are enthusiastic users of social networking sites giving up too much control?”

In the post, Gillmor warns that putting too much of your “persona” — data about your friends, your “likes,” your interests and demographics — in a large social-networking service may be handing over too much control over your privacy without much in return. He’s correct, and it’s a key ongoing topic of the Information Valet Project. It’s also a key challenge addressed by our call for the formation of a global Information Trust Association, which would help establish protocols and opt-in business rules for trust, privacy, identity and information commerce on the web. I replied:


Responding to your last paragraph: In a more detailed post I’m sure you would have mentioned Doc Searls’ ProjectVRM work at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. Broadly, what we need is an infrastructure that supports multiple places where you can lodge your “persona” (demographic and personal data), and which vouch for you as you use resources on the web. Today Facebook Connect is the default commercial identity provider for the web. Clearly G+ is making a play to be No. 2, and the fact that Facebook blocked it is at one level a welcome sign of competition.

What we need is for there to be dozens, hundreds, thousands of identity service providers — so that users can choose the one they are most comfortable with. These could be banks, telcoms, ISPs, publishers, affinity groups or even new enterprises (such as or formed for this purpose. The key issue is that they be willing — and able — to cross-authenticate their users so that they are silos, but silos which are unwalled from the user perspect.

We’re in the early stages of a four-party approach to trust, privacy, identity and information commerce — users, the user agent who helps with identity, the outfits that rely on the trust provided by the user agent (retail and content websites, eventually health-care providers perhaps) and a fourth party — the service which authenticates all of this activity.

The fourth party — the authenticator — best not be a for-profit or government entity. I’ve sketched out an idea for a global Information Trust Association which starts to get at a possible solution.  And the white paper details the idea.

Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., a group of about 15 people met to work on a response to the Obama administration’s call for a private-sector let approach to Internet federated identity. They were responding to the National Strategy for Trusted identities in Cyberspace.  The government effort may be a catalyst for the work you are asking about.

— bill densmore

June 23-25 “congress” gathering aims to establish trust, identity, commerce services for news

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Three U.S. newspaper trade groups and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute are teaming up to seed ideas and a possible solution to how news and other information can be managed and sold online.  “From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information,” is being billed as a three-day “action congress” to discuss issues of trust, identity and Internet information commerce.

 The June 23-25 event at the University of Missouri-based research center will include unveiling of a 148-page business plan for a proposed news-industry collaborative, according to Bill Monroe, director of the Multistate Digital Task Force, an ad-hoc group formed by state press associations in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa with support from several other state trade groups.

 Details of the public event, and links to participant registration, are at .

 “This is not a conference, or a summit,” says Bill Densmore, a consulting researcher to the Reynolds Journalism Institute. “ It’s a public congress of news and information service providers — organized by U.S. state press associations. The intention is to move beyond talk, and to launch one or more enterprises or collaboratives.” Reynolds is an ideas-experiments-research center affiliated with the nation’s oldest journalism school, at the University of Missouri.

 Densmore said the gathering has two intentions:

  •  Consider establishing a non-profit collaborative that will specify standards, platforms and protocols for a digital information marketplace; supporting investment and partnering with operating companies and,
  • Define and start raising money for an operating company or association that answers to, and primarily serves and benefits, all America’s newspapers — and is focused on profitably sharing, protecting and managing their digital content. Monroe, who is working from the Iowa Press Association in Des Moines, said the working name for the new entity is the American Newspaper Digital Access Corp.

“Newspapers are working to make the transition from a product-based culture — the daily paper — to a service-based one — helping people manage their privacy, identity and information needs in a web and mobile ecosystem awash with more information than we can intelligently assess,” says Densmore. “News organizations need to become our trusted  information valets  rather than our information gatekeepers.”

“From Blueprint to Build,” is an outgrowth of a December, 2008, summit also convened by the Reynolds Journalism Institute as part of a fellowship undertaken by Densmore called the Information Valet Project.

Google’s CEO on what will pay for content: Advertising, micropayments, subscriptions

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has laid out his vision for the three principal ways information will be financed in a digital age. His answer, not surprisingly: Advertising, micropayments and subscriptions. What’s notable is his particular take on where each method can be most effectively deployed.

Schmidt laid out his views in a one-hour broadcast interview March 6, 2009, on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS. If you want to watch it, here’s the link, and the content-funding discussion starts about 15 minutes in:

Here’s the context: Rose asked Schmidt about the phenomenon of user-generated content. Schmidt acknowledges the challenging of selling advertisements against it. He says Google is working on ways to target content to individual interests. He notes that text ads near search results “are very, very lucrative, and a great business to be in.” He says Google is working on the creation of sophisticated visual advertisements that will make people excited about buying products. “And we can sell those products and make a lot of money,” he says.

When Rose then asked about how to monetize content, Schmidt explains:

  • He said advertisements would be used to cover the cost of “things, which are going to be viewed by 2 billion people.”
  • For smaller audiences — 20 million or 2 million viewers — “you can imagine that you’ll have micropayments, not advertising, where you’ll pay a one cent, three cent, five cent for a view. And those tools and techniques are being developed now in the industry and I think are likely to be successful.”
  • For specialized, high-value content, “that is knowledge workers who are highly paid and they have to have this very special report, they’ll pay big bucks and they’ll use the traditional subscription methods.”

    On privacy of Google Mail

    On privacy, Rose asks Schmidt about the fact that Google has the ability to “see all my mail” if a user is on Google Mail.

    “But we don’t, by practice,” replies Schmidt.

    “You’re saying trust us. Trust us?” asks Rose.

    “Yes,” replies Schmidt. “We do not sneak a look.”

    Transparency — a form of journalism?

    Journalism doesn’t come up in the interview, per se. But Schmidt has some thoughtful comments about the way technology is increasing transparency in society and in politics. Here’s a longish, verbatim excerpt. To what extend does Schmidt articulate a scenario, which makes watchdog journalism unnecessary?

    SCHMIDT: “The important thing here is the phenomenon of user-generated content, of which YouTube is an example, is I think the defining expression of humanity over the next 10 to 20 years. We had no idea that all these things were going on because there was no way to see them. And now if you have someone who is being taken advantage of or abused or put into an inappropriate position or what have you they can take a picture, they can record what the police are doing.

    “There are a lot of implications. The most interesting thing is transparency is how you keep societies honest. And we’ve now because of the Internet and the digital revolution We’ve essentially given people the ability to see everything. So you can now take photographs and videos of everything you see in your world and people will discover it. And there are whole communities of people who are interested in these kinds of aspects and the serve as a form of check and balance on the powerful, the rich, the people who might exploit others. But it doesn’t necessarily mean for a different outcome, but it means that everybody can’t hide, they can’t tell the truth and that’s a big step forward.”

    ROSE: But how would it affect politics?

    SCHMIDT (excerpting his answer): “Politicians today are well aware of YouTube and its phenomenon and they’re more careful. And being more careful is probably good. Because indeed if they are going off and saying things to small audiences and they’re going to another audience and saying something very different, I want to know that as a viewer.” …. “It’s very difficult now to use completely false statements to inflame the public.”

  • Charging for Trust? The Perils of Information Investment on an Unstable (Free) Platform

    by Emily W. Sussman

    Is “too free to be trustworthy” today’s web-wise version of the old adage “too good to be true”?

    MediaShift’s Mark Glaser had a great cautionary post last week about the dangers of professional and/or personal overreliance on any one sharing-is-caring 2.0 platform, such as Facebook or Twitter. [I’ll refer to these types of sites here as ‘SN/UGC’ for Social Networking/User-Generated Content.]

    In today’s unpredictable climate of spend-venture-capital-cash-now, find-revenue-later SN/UGCs, Glaser advises, it’s folly to put all your information eggs in one basket. Continue reading