Digital Trust Foundation Announces First Round of Investment in Online Privacy, Safety, and Security

March 25, 2015

The Digital Trust Foundation today announced its first round of investments to promote online privacy, safety, and security. The $3 million in grants will go to a diverse group of 24 organizations, including privacy advocacy nonprofits, universities, a large school district, an investigative journalism outlet, and a community-based organization supporting active duty members of the military and veterans.

“We considered proposals from a diverse group of organizations,” said Larry Magid, Digital Trust Foundation board member and CEO and co-founder. “We looked carefully for gaps in the field where we thought we could make a difference with this funding.”

Nearly half of the Foundation’s first round of investment will go toward strengthening privacy education for youth. Six grantees will teach privacy education to youth around the United States using a variety of program models and curricula. All of these grantees will also evaluate the effectiveness of their approach to privacy education, contributing to the field’s evidence base. Two grantees will create and implement privacy education campaigns, also aimed at youth. Three highly-respected research groups received grants to develop white papers and educational materials on the most effective messages to promote online privacy to youth. These papers will provide privacy educators and curriculum developers with more guidance on what works to increase knowledge and privacy protective practices among youth.

The Foundation invested $1.4 million in twelve leading U.S.-based consumer protection and online privacy, safety, and security organizations. The grants will fund a range of activities, including development of consumer education materials on topics such as mobile payment security, big data, identity theft, and how to use privacy settings on various computing platforms; development of privacy protection guidance and best practices for industry; research into parenting in the digital age, youth-targeted marketing, and the legal distinction between data and metadata; and building the capacity of grantee organizations to be more effective by hiring staff, modernizing websites, and participating in national and international discussions about online privacy, safety, and security.

The Foundation also made a grant to the Center for Investigative Reporting, an innovative investigative journalism media organization, which will host a two-year reporting fellowship focused on the privacy experiences of low-socioeconomic status people and communities in the United States. The Foundation has found that research and analysis of the online privacy experiences of low-socioeconomic status populations are underrepresented in the public discourse, media coverage, and academic literature. In addition to this journalism fellowship, the Foundation will make investments in research and direct services that will further address this gap.

For more information about the organizations and projects receiving Digital Trust Foundation grants, please visit

The Digital Trust Foundation board of directors allocated funding to five program areas: (1) Privacy Education for Youth; (2) Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Online Privacy and Security; (3) Assessing, Preventing, and Addressing Digital Abuse; (4) General Funding for Promotion of Online Privacy, Safety, and Security; and (5) Innovation in Privacy Enhancing Technologies. The grants made in the first funding cycle represent the only grants that will be made in program areas (1) and (4).

The Foundation is currently in the midst of its second funding cycle. In Summer 2015, it will announce additional grants made in program areas (2) and (3). The Request for Proposal period for program area (2) closed on March 18, 2015. The Request for Proposal period for program area (3) will open on March 27, 2015.

The directors of the Digital Trust Foundation are Erin Egan, Chris Hoofnagle, and Larry Magid.

About the Digital Trust Foundation

In 2007, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court of the Northern District of California against Facebook on behalf of 3.6 million users of Facebook concerning its “Beacon” program. KamberLaw represented the plaintiffs in this action and Cooley LLP represented Facebook. This suit was settled in 2009 and was granted final approval by the Hon. Richard Seeborg in March 2010. As part of the settlement, the parties created the Foundation (the Digital Trust Foundation) “the purpose of which shall be to fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.” The case settled for $9.5 million, with the Foundation receiving approximately $6.7 million after attorney’s fees, payments to plaintiffs, and administrative costs. There were four objectors to the settlement, two of whom appealed the approval to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and subsequently the Supreme Court. But ultimately, in November 2013, the appeals were rejected and the Foundation was funded. The Foundation will distribute more than $6 million and will close its doors once all of the grants have been distributed and completed.

Christine Fry
christine [at] digitaltrustfoundation [dot] org