An open opportunity to learn directly about user-driven data.

"The FTC wants to help ensure that the growing, changing, thriving information marketplace is built on a framework that promotes privacy, transparency, business innovation and consumer choice."
FTC Chairman John Leibowitz December 12, 2010
"Consumers have a right to determine what if any of their information is shared with big corporations and the federal government must have the authority and tools to enforce reasonable protections."
US House Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) February 11, 2011
"We need to place the control over consumer information with the actual consumer themselves."
US House Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) March 4, 2011

Reinventing behavioral tracking by putting individuals in charge.

The Portable Context Community Prototype is the world’s first cross-organizational prototype of service provision based on user-driven behavioral information. A robust alternative to Do-Not-Track efforts, the Portable Context puts users in charge of their online behavioral data, using an innovative legal framework to protect that information when used by service providers. This Portable Context Community Prototype will be managed by SwitchBook, Inc. in the second half of 2011.

Background Whatever Congress and federal agencies decide about regulating privacy on the Internet, some realities will persist for large service providers.

Public sector organizations will continue to see:

Private sector businesses that use customer data face similar challenges. In addition they face:

For these reasons, restoring control over how personal data is used in interactions with organizations, to the individual, is the stated goal of Republicans, Democrats and the FTC. That’s what the Portable Context community prototype does.

Trust Addressing the question of trust online is key to cutting costs, maintaining existing services, and developing new ones. The Portable Context community prototype will achieve this for a diverse range of users and across a diverse range of organizations.

It will be the world’s first live service where users’ online activity is shared with a range of organizations in a standard manner under the user’s absolute legal control. Organizations will receive user-driven and user-controlled data directly related to current online activity, which opens up new possibilities for improved customer data quality and offers the basis for new, more ambitious services.

This is achieved by implementing — for the first time in a multi-stakeholder prototype in the U.S.— the simple, but powerful principles of what is variously called buyer-centric commerce, customer managed relationships, vendor relationship management, and user-driven services.

This means:

The Specific Proposaltop

In the latter part of 2011, a US-based group of people and companies will demonstrate the future of personalized online services.

Technology gurus and policy makers speak of a World Wide Web built around the individual rather than corporations. The Portable Context community prototype exemplifies this as it reduces the control of isolated data silos and empowers individuals, saving them time and letting them deal on a more equal footing with large organizations, to mutual benefit.

The prototype will see a diverse range of individuals record and curate their online activity, then drive services from a range of organizations using structured data under their own control. They will do this at their own convenience, using their own computers and the Internet as part of their regular activities.

Individuals will be given portable context management software with basic functionality. This functionality can in due course be extended by any vendor of added-value services or by the individual themselves. Participating organizations simply agree to receive and respect the information provided according to the expressed wishes of the individuals who provide it. The data architecture leaves ownership and control of the personal data explicitly in the hands of the individual.

Lessons of the Prototypetop

For Organizations The Portable Context community prototype will demonstrate the potential for immense savings from user-curated data sets. This allows greater relevance and reduction of waste on a large scale. It paves the way for rapid restoration of trust between people and organizations online, in turn opening avenues of new business opportunity.

For Individuals The prototype will demonstrate how people can maintain their own data under their own control, while still benefitting from next generation services’ ability to personalize and customize on the fly. It will immediately be clear to them how they can save vast amounts of time in their dealings with organizations and other individuals. It starts to restore a healthier balance in individuals online relationships with organizations and people.

For Technology Providers The prototype will demonstrate the further capabilities and economic benefit that are released when we work with privacy-enhancing technologies based on selective disclosure. For over a decade, the possibility has existed, but it has been challenging to persuade top decision-makers and political leaders of this case. This is not a technical sell. This is a matter of national and international government policy. User-driven data is a clear political win, offering a community of empowered customers fundamental change and building momentum towards creating immense new social and economic value.


People Participating individuals—whether you think of them as customers, citizens, patients, jobseekers, or something else—will be diverse and sufficiently numerous to cover a full range of demographic groups. The only criteria initially are a willingness to participate and the ability to use a web browser.

Organizations The Portable Context community prototype will involve a range of disciplines and organizations.

It seeks as participants:

The prototype is also looking for the following organizations:

What is the appeal of the community prototype?top

Politically It shows how to meet current political agendas. I shows how to use personal data powerfully and cost-effectively under the control of the individual. It tackles many of the progrlams currently associated with cost, poor data quality, inability to personalize, and loss of trust. It provides political leaders with a route to delivering what is promised in public services (personalization, more for less, respect for dignity and

To people It brings them back into the relationship based on their personal data in their dealings with organizations. It enables real "immediate intimacy" for private as well as public services. For the tech-aware, it is a unique chance to be right at the start of what will become a global movement to redress balance and restore dignity to online relationships.

To large organizations with many customers Be the first to see how you can get back your own customers and create value based on their expressed intention in an efficient, structured, and trusted way. Save money, start to restore trust, and start planning how you respond to new business opportunities based on user-driven data and client-side services built on scalable, structured, personal data.

To entrepreneurs The entrepreneurs involved need no persuading that a vast opportunity exists. This gets the market started. They can learn what can be achieved and establish an early profile in this new market sector.

To technology suppliers The prototype shows how to fulfill the orginal promise of CRM and the world wide web: cost savings, better service, personalization, new and more profitable service lines. These benefits have hit a plateau for data structured and maintained only by large organizations. The portable context community prototype proves the efficacy and desirability of essential underpinning technologies: web applications (HTML, javascript, CSS), the semantic web (RDF, SPARQL, N3), and user-centric identity (OAuth, UMA, the Kantara Standard Information Sharing Agreement).

To global technical, public sector, and marketing communities An effective and workable solution to the question of achieving trust online has profound effects. It affects identity providers, existing CRM and emerging VRM communities, direct marketing, and customer services. It demonstrates a proof of concept for addressing the challenges of modern digital systems.

What happens after?top

At the heart of the prototype, we propose a one-day workshop to map the implications and future path of our collaborative work. Drawing on these lessons, we could decided to pause if it is clear there are real outstanding problems…

…or we could carry on and scale up. We can

Based on the right standards, this approach can scale globally. Activities in the EU and, especially, in the UK offer opportunities to leverage the Portable Context as a vehicle for managing personal data through clear individual authority and control.

What do organizations get if they take part? top

The offer to organizations that take part in the community prototype is

What does participation cost? top

Participation is free to individuals and small businesses.

SwitchBook offers participation to major companies for a modest fee. This provides the deliverables described here and a seat on the project steering board.

Platinum participation is also available for companies interested in an exclusive for their industry.

To discuss arrangements for participation, please contact Joe Andrieu. Your participation is confirmed when SwitchBook receives your organization's binding purchase order.

Joe Andrieu