Over the last few months, the Digital Trust Foundation board and I have been refining the Foundation’s funding goals and preparing to launch the first funding cycle in the fall. The details are settled enough that we are ready to share dates and an overview of the program areas that the Foundation plans to fund.
The Foundation’s board of directors has approved the following program areas. We will release much more information—including the rationale behind each program area, the total funding allocation for each program area, and detailed explanations of eligible activities—with each request for proposals. For now, though, here is a high-level summary of what we plan to fund:
1. Privacy Education for Youth
The Lane v. Facebook settlement agreement directs the Foundation to invest in educating Internet users on how to protect themselves and their information from online threats. This program area will focus on implementing, assessing, and disseminating educational strategies aimed at increasing the privacy resilience of children and teens and helping children and teens develop skills and resources to protect themselves in the digital environment throughout life.
2. Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Privacy
Since the investigations of John Gilliom and Ellen Alderman, there has been little inquiry into how people living in poverty or individuals marginalized by low socioeconomic status experience privacy. Scholars and advocates have expressed concerns that the poor may be subjected to greater government and private-sector surveillance by virtue of participation in social service programs, the dynamics of low-wage workplaces, and the reality of policing in poorer neighborhoods. The Foundation intends to fund investigation of the privacy experience of people of low socioeconomic status.
3. Assessing Digital Abuse
Digital abuse can take many forms, including harassment, trolling, bullying, revenge porn, and sextortion. Although some legal and technical remedies exist, they may not reach far enough, particularly given the cost of litigation for victims. The Foundation intends to fund research projects on digital abuse and organizations providing direct services to victims.
4. General Funding for Promotion of Online Privacy, Safety, and Security
The Lane v. Facebook settlement agreement directs the Foundation “to fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.” The Foundation will invite proposals to continue or expand existing projects that fit within the settlement’s broad mandate.
5. Innovation in Privacy Enhancing Technologies
Privacy enhancing technologies have been a long unrealized dream of those who care about digital civil liberties. Yet they remain out of practical reach for the average consumer. The Foundation intends to fund activities that encourage the development of seamless, multi-platform, easy-to-use, privacy-enhancing technologies.
Most of the funding will be distributed via an open and competitive grant-making process. There are a few activities that the board intends to fund via invitation-only proposals. When the Foundation makes those grants, we will be transparent about who is receiving the grants and why we chose to solicit proposals by invitation.
Grant-Making Timeline and Key Dates
The Foundation will make grants in two funding cycles. The first funding cycle will begin in early October 2014, with the goal of contracting with grantees in December 2014 and January 2015. The second funding cycle will begin in January 2015, with the goal of contracting with grantees in April 2015. If you plan to seek funding from the Foundation, please make note of these dates.
The first round of funding will be for the Privacy Education for Youth and General Funding program areas (numbers 1 and 4 above). Look for requests for proposals to be released during the week of October 6, 2014. If we encounter any unexpected delays, I will update this website as soon as possible with a revised release date and timeline.
Proposals for Privacy Education for Youth will be due on November 7, 2014, and we will aim to notify successful grantees in December 2014.
Letters of interest for General Funding projects will be due in late October. We will invite full proposals based on the letters of interest in early November and expect to notify successful grantees in January 2015.
Evaluation Consultant Update
The Foundation has hired Harder+Company, a highly-respected and experienced evaluation firm, to advise the Foundation on grant program evaluation requirements and to develop an evaluation plan for the Foundation. We are excited to work with their team, and we look forward to sharing the lessons learned from our grants with the field.