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Building trust with personal clouds: launch of the Respect Network

Posted on: Thursday 8th of May 2014

Many of the biggest opportunities of the personal information economy revolve around the provision of new personalised services and experiences which depend on the trusted two-way sharing of personal data between organisations and individuals.

The development of Trust Frameworks offer organisations one opportunity to create the right infrastructure to enable such productive information sharing relationships and services. They create standard, enforceable rules for all parties when dealing with each other online enabling privacy, security and giving people the confidence to do business on the Internet whilst simultaneously supporting innovation and sustained growth.

There is increasing interest in the Trust Framework market and next month the Respect Network, a US-based Trust Framework provider, launches globally.

Launch events will take place in five cities across the world – London, San Francisco, Sydney, Berlin and Tel Aviv. Ctrl-Shift CEO, Liz Brandt, will be providing the business and economic context for Trust Frameworks and their important part in the evolving personal information economy at the London, Berlin and San Francisco events. She will share findings from our forthcoming ground breaking research into the economic and business case for Personal Information Management Services. The research is the first of its kind to put real numbers on the size of the opportunity and what it might mean for organisations along with which parts of the economy will be impacted most.

Ahead of the launch we spoke to Drummond Reed, founder and CEO, about the Respect Network and its place in the emerging personal information economy.


1. What’s the big benefit your service is designed to offer?

In the case of the Respect Network, that’s a little like asking, “What’s the big benefit that banking is designed to offer?” Here’s why: the Respect Network is a global private network of personal and business clouds. These clouds are offered by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) around the world that compete for your business just like banks compete for your business on the global banking network or email providers on the global email network.

For consumers, the Respect Network offers all the benefits of fully open standard, interoperable, portable personal clouds, i.e., a place where people can store and share any of their personal data (files, photos, videos, contacts, financial records, medical records, etc.) with full privacy, ownership and control. But unlike today’s personal cloud services (e.g., Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive), on the Respect Network your personal cloud is:

  1. Fully portable between personal cloud providers (just like you can move your money to any bank),
  2. Fully networked, so you can safely and securely share any file, photo, or item of digital data with any other person or business on the network, and
  3. An open platform for a new apps that can provide powerful new value propositions based on trusted private data sharing.

For businesses, the Respect Network represents a new channel for building trusted private relationships with customers—a way to communicate and share data with strong privacy, security, and customer control. Such a channel has never existed before—it’s as new as Internet email was 20 years ago or Facebook was 10 years ago. It fundamentally enables the “control shift” by giving individuals control over their own data.

2. What inspired/motivated your business?

This might sound funny, but it was Facebook. What Facebook proved to the world is that over a billion people would join a social network and give it mountains of personal data if it made it easy for them to connect and share with others.

Because I have been working on XDI (the open standard semantic data sharing protocol on which the Respect Network is based) for 15 years, and on Internet trust frameworks (new legal models for establishing scalable trust networks) for 10 years, I saw the opportunity to do for private trusted relationships what Facebook had done for public social relationships.

3. What is the business model? How do you/will you earn your keep?

That was actually the “ah-ha” that convinced me to do another startup even though I’m old enough to have kids in college. I knew the business model couldn’t be advertising or any form of data brokering because on the Respect Network all data is private and completely under the ownership and control of each member.

So the model had to be based on the value of the network to each member—the value of these new trusted private channels. And when you look at it that way, it became obvious that we should follow the same basic model as the global credit card networks. But instead of a business paying a small fraction of the value of each transaction over the network—an interchange fee—on the Respect Network  a business pays a small fraction of the value of each relationship over the network—a “relationship fee”.

However relationship fees only make sense once the network achieves scale, so at the outset we are using the same membership fee model as Costco and other large buying clubs. Individuals pay a small membership fee to join—initially $25 for a lifetime membership—and businesses pay an annual membership based on their revenues, from $50/year for a small business to $50,000 a year for a global corporation.

4. Where would you like to be in 3-5 years time?

Our plan is to grow the Respect Network on a curve similar to other major networks, only measured not just by the number of individual members but also by the number of business members. Within 3-5 years our goal is to have at least 25 million personal members and 1 million business members.

5. What obstacles will you need to overcome to get there?

The primary obstacle will be growing the network and developing apps fast enough to meet demand. XDI is a young protocol with a small community around it, so we are working like mad to supply more documentation and examples.

Also, the Respect Trust Framework is a new legal approach to the contractual protection of privacy and personal data online, so Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Privacy Officers in companies around the world will need to explore how to work with it to gain a competitive advantage through trust.

6. Have there been any recent developments in your business/market?

The biggest overall development has been the constant fallout from the Snowden revelations. The continuous stream of new stories about our privacy is being violated on the Internet has created a massive demand for a grassroots, long-term sustainable solution to this problem. Just last month we were picked as one of 12 FiReStarter companies for the 2014 Future In Review conference because of the impact we can have on privacy worldwide.

7. What was you key learning from our recent Personal Information Economy 2014 event?

The main learning was the deep connection between privacy and personal information empowerment. They are flip sides of the same coin. To unlock the value of personal information in the digital economy, companies are going to have to start making the same level of commitment to Internet privacy that a decade ago they had to make to Internet security.

8. Have you got any more general thoughts or views about the personal information economy you would like to share?

There has been much talk about how personal information is a “new currency”; that it has an inherent value that is fungible in the personal information economy. However I strongly agree with Doc Searls point that the value of personal data is not “sale value”, but “use value”. In other words, people are not going to sell their personal data to companies—that’s got the value equation entirely wrong. The real value is to use the data in the context of growing a deeper and more trusted relationship with a company. So I believe the personal information economy will turn out to be the trusted relationship economy.