Funded Projects

Non-profits and other groups working toward the common good often struggle to secure support for effective, ongoing programs. The privacy field has many groups with deep expertise and strong track records implementing successful programs. While some of the Foundation’s funding is dedicated to research and innovation, we also want to bolster the good work of organizations that are already making an impact promoting online privacy, safety, and security. Through the General Funding program area, the Foundation made twelve grants to sustain or scale effective programs that promote online privacy, safety, and/or security.

All project summaries were written by grantees.

Grantee: ACLU
Project: ACLU/ACLU-NC Project to Promote Online Privacy, Safety, and Security

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU) and ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) will enhance the online privacy, safety, and security of Americans through collaborative work toward three main objectives:

  • Identifying privacy and security vulnerabilities in existing technologies, including those exploited by or even created at the behest of government agencies. This work identifying vulnerabilities will help fix flaws, facilitate changes that enhance online protections, and allow Americans to better consider what role we want new technologies to play in our society.
  • Enhancing consumer privacy and security by working with companies to promote defaults that favor consumer privacy and security and to counterbalance threats from government. In addition, the project will educate consumers about privacy and security issues so that they are better prepared to take advantage of existing privacy and security safeguards, as well as to push for greater protections themselves.
  • Supporting robust privacy and security practices before Internet standards bodies and state and federal agencies to ensure that the next generation of Internet technologies includes security- and privacy-enhancing features by default.

Grantee: Center for Democracy & Technology
Project: Consumer Privacy Project

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has received a grant to sustain the work of our Consumer Privacy Project (CPP), supporting new projects on algorithmic fairness and workplace privacy. This work will allow CDT to develop principles to guide fair and responsible use of machine learning and algorithmic decision-making, as well as advance and update civil rights for the modern world. It will also allow us to produce actionable guidance for workers and workplaces on the boundaries of personal privacy while on the job, including nuanced questions about the use of social media monitoring, body monitoring devices, and the intersection of individual privacy rights and company policy. The CPP works toward three overall goals:

(1) enhancing and preserving legal protections for consumer data;
(2) establishing improved user controls and promoting user choice for data sharing; and

(3) promoting fairness, transparency, and data minimization as core privacy concepts.

To achieve these goals, CDT combines the roles of think tank, convener, and advocate.

Grantee: Center for Digital Democracy
Project: Digital Privacy Framework for Children and Teens in the Big Data Era

Today’s children are growing up in an all-encompassing digital culture, with mobile devices, social media, gaming, apps, and online video now ingrained in their lives. But this intense engagement with digital media has also placed young people at the center of a data-collection system fueled by the growing power of Big Data. While such practices raise serious privacy concerns for all consumers, they are particularly problematic for children, who are still developing — psychologically, biologically, and socially. Even with the recent changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), now covering a range of new practices on social media, mobile, and other platforms, the expansion of Big Data and the proliferation of highly targeted advertising continue to challenge COPPA’s ability to provide meaningful protection. However, as the forces of Big Data further transform the digital media system, we have an opportunity to lay the groundwork for adoption of industry-wide standards for engaging with young consumers on social media, mobile, video, and other platforms. By involving a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the process — including industry, government, nonprofit groups, and youth — we hope to foster a much-needed public conversation about how digital media can be harnessed as a positive force in the lives of young people.

With Digital Trust Foundation support and using a strategic combination of marketplace and regulatory analyses and stakeholder interviews, we will produce a paper summarizing the key issues and questions that must be addressed. In the process, this initiative will lay the groundwork for a digital privacy framework for youth that reflects the entire developmental process, from early childhood to adolescence. The project is aimed ultimately at forging consensus across a spectrum of interests and institutions on how best to ensure the fair treatment of youth in the digital era. Pending the generation of additional support, we hope to convene a meeting of industry, public-interest, and regulatory stakeholders to arrive finally at a set of “Fair Information and Marketing Guidelines for Children and Teens in the Big Data Era.”

Grantee: Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester (New York)
Project: Veteran and Military Online Safety Training Program

Military members and veterans represent a unique target for identity thieves and scammers given the benefits they receive and their long absences during deployment and/or duty. The Veteran and Military Online Safety Training program will equip veterans and military service members in the seven-county Rochester, New York, metropolitan area (Monroe, Orleans, Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming, Wayne, and Ontario Counties) with the knowledge, skills, and assistance needed to protect, clear, and maintain their identity and online privacy during pre-deployment and post-service. By conducting online-privacy training where goals are established at opportune moments — such as pre-deployment and return from service — and at the agencies where services are most often provided — including veteran’s centers and military community centers — the Veteran and Military Online Safety Training program will conduct 36 workshops for more than 720 participants in three years. Additionally, the program model will be presented at the national Family Online Safety Institute conference and disseminated nationally via three webinars for other communities to adopt.

Grantee: Consumer Federation of America
Project: Get Smart about How to Protect Your Privacy and Security When You Make Mobile Payments

Many consumers are hesitant to make payments with mobile devices because of concerns about privacy and security. Consumer Federation of America will create new educational materials to help consumers learn how to make mobile payments safely and confidently.

Grantee: Electronic Frontier Foundation
Project: Digital Privacy Training & Activism

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Digital Privacy Training and Activism project seeks to educate users about the privacy and security settings available on various websites, apps, and platforms. The project seeks also to develop consumers’ understanding of the context and limits of these systems and how to take further steps to protect their privacy and security. These objectives will be accomplished with blog posts, screencasts, guides, and social media posts.

Grantee: EPIC
Project: EPIC Consumer Privacy Project

EPIC plans to expand its Consumer Privacy Project. EPIC will strengthen its web presence, improve the outreach of the Privacy Coalition, advocate for consumers, bring important consumer privacy matters to the attention of the FTC, support the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, promote solutions to emerging privacy challenges, help the media understand consumer privacy issues, participate in workshops and conferences, and remain a forceful advocate for consumer privacy. EPIC will expand its staff, web presence, and academic contributions. Further, EPIC will publish and promote Privacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Soutions and will host events to make consumer privacy discussions available to the public.

Grantee: Family Online Safety Institute
Project: Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) Research

The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) will focus research on the needs of parents so they may understand and improve their children’s safety and privacy online. FOSI will conduct research into parents’ fears, concerns, challenges, and use of social media, as well as their hopes for their kids. The research will provide greater insight on their kids’ online behaviors to help parents make the online world a safer place for their children. The proposed research project will provide the next stage in a longitudinal study on how parents’ fears and coping mechanisms change over time and give insight into how this generation of parents are creating the basis for their children’s online lives. Issues to be explored include how parents and caregivers use parental controls, privacy settings, and reporting mechanisms in order to keep their kids safe. We will also look at parents’ hopes for their kids’ futures, particularly in relation to their use and mastery of technology. The research may also examine how parents feel about content for kids online, screen time, and the potential benefits of social media.

Grantee: National Cyber Security Alliance
Project: National Privacy, Safety, and Security Education Awareness Campaign

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) will engage in a sustainable, effective privacy education and awareness initiative through its STOP.THINK.CONNECT. campaign. NCSA will leverage traditional and social media platforms and a robust collection of STOP.THINK.CONNECT resources for all to use, co-brand, and disseminate. Overall, through this project, NCSA seeks to saturate the digital community with effective research-based messaging that leads to behavior change, creates awareness, and promotes a safer, more secure, and more trusted Internet.

Grantee: New York University Information Law Institute
Project: The Data/Metadata Distinction in U.S. Privacy Law and Policy

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the distinction between data and “metadata” has featured prominently in public debate about the legality of the NSA’s surveillance activities. Similar distinctions, such as that between communication “content” and “non-content,” crop up throughout the landscape and history of U.S. privacy law. Many commentators have criticized these legal demarcations. The NYU Information Law Institute agrees with many of these critiques. U.S. law’s blind adherence to these formalistic classifications in the face of technological change has subjected consumers to unanticipated losses of privacy. Nonetheless, we believe that important conceptual, empirical and normative intuitions lie behind these legal dividing lines. Understanding those intuitions will be critical to moving beyond rigid adherence to outdated categorizations and to designing regulation that will protect individuals’ privacy under current technological conditions. In this project, we plan to mine current and historical legal categorizations to uncover the meaning, motivations, and values behind them. We will then critique current law in light of that study, highlighting problematic categorizations. Based on that analysis, we will develop a theoretically grounded approach to online privacy regulation that attempts to incorporate the normative values these distinctions were intended to promote, without relying on rigid and problematic categorizations.

Grantee: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Project: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse “Reaching Out” Project

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) will use Digital Trust Foundation funds to reach more consumers with our educational materials. The PRC will expand our communications function, present consumer privacy educational materials in new formats, develop new content, and improve our website content architecture and design for better usability. By doing so, PRC will increase access to our substantial online privacy, safety, and security resources, and both expand and further the consumer education focus of our mission.

Grantee: U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Project: Big Data and Internet Tracking Project

The project seeks to evaluate the development of Internet and mobile marketplace consumer data tracking systems; measure these practices against existing protections and their compliance with the Code of Fair Information Practices; and then educate consumers, regulators, other policy advocates, enterprises and other stakeholders about threats to privacy posed by the practices. Finally, the project proposes solutions to regulators, enterprises, and consumers. In particular, the project focuses on Big Data and its impacts on financial inclusion and economic mobility. Digital Trust Foundation funding enables us to scale up an existing project and expand deliverables to include greater emphasis on end consumers.