A new foundation, born out of a lawsuit regarding Facebook's Beacon project, is giving away more than $6 million "to fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security."
It seems like an eternity ago, but in 2007, Facebook launched the Beacon advertising program that transferred data from external websites over to Facebook so that users could share their purchases and other activities via the social network. Beacon didn't go well and the immediate reaction from some privacy advocates and Facebook users was negative enough to prompt CEO Mark Zuckerberg to apologize a month later for "mistakes building this feature." It also prompted a class action suit against Facebook, which resulted in a $9.5 million settlement. The Foundation received approximately $6.7 million after attorney's fees, plaintiff payments, and other expenses.
I am one of the three court-appointed members of the Digital Trust Foundation's (DTF) board of directors, along with Berkeley Law School faculty member and privacy expert Chris Hoofnagle and Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan. The Foundation operates independently of Facebook. (Disclosure: I am co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from Facebook, but does not and will not receive any support from the Foundation. Foundation board members are not paid for service.)
The Foundation has identified five program areas and is now seeking proposals for the two of those areas: privacy education for youth and general funding for promotion of online privacy, safety and security. In early 2015, we will invite proposals in the areas of understanding socioeconomic status and privacy, assessing digital abuse, and innovation in privacy enhancing technologies.
Details and requests for proposals are available at the Foundation website.
General Funding for Promotion of Online Privacy, Safety and Security
The Foundation is investing $2.2 million in programs that "support effective existing programs related to online privacy, safety, and/or security," and to "build capacity of and provide stability for online privacy, safety, and/or security." Letters of interest for this area are due on October 31, 2014, with final proposals due on December 5, 2014.
Per the guidelines in the settlement, this could include any projects "designed to educate users, regulators, and enterprises regarding critical issues relating to protection of identity and personal information online through user control, and to protect users from online threats." That's pretty broad language so, in addition to privacy threats, we're also entertaining proposals regarding security and safety.
Privacy Education for Youth
The Foundation is investing $1 million in privacy education for youth. Proposals are due on November 21, 2014. As we state in the RFP for this program area, the goals of this program are to "increase the privacy resilience of children and teens in the face of complex data sharing environments and to help children and teens develop skills and resources to protect them in the digital environment throughout life."
The Foundation will fund three strategies:
• Implementation & Assessment of Online Privacy Education Programs
• Online Privacy Campaigns for Youth
• Online Privacy Messaging Best Practices White Paper
We are particularly interested in education programs and campaigns that enhance digital literacy among youth so that they have the "skills needed to successfully and safely navigate technology and the Internet" along with the ability to interpret information they see and "to make decisions about how and when to share information online."