Respect Network Wants Members To Get Paid For Their Data

Tuesday saw the worldwide launch of the Respect Network, a platform that helps manage a web user’s online identity and their data through encrypted, private clouds.

The network works as a hub for the members’ documents, social media content and personal files stored with third-party cloud providers. It enables sharing of this information in a secure and transparent manner.

After the network gets enough traction, it plans to allow the members to sell their data to interested businesses, which will carry a rating based on their previous treatment of such data.

“We believe for too long, some big corporations have offered ‘free’ services in return for monitoring and exploiting your information,” states the Respect Network manifesto. “We believe you should decide who, if anyone, can use your personal information, and for what purpose, and that you should benefit directly from that usage.”

People are not the product

The Respect Network is a collaboration of over 70 companies and open source projects from around the world. For a flat annual fee of $25 (£17), it offers members the tools to control how their information will be used, and enables them to get value from their contribution.

This information can include medical records, financial records, insurance records, and family records, among other things.

The Respect Network supports accounts for both individuals and businesses. Borrowing from Twitter and its use of certain characters as account identifiers, it marks individuals by a ‘=’ and commercial entities with a ‘+’. For example, this author’s “cloud name” on Respect Network would look like ‘=max.smolaks’.

Every private account comes with a small amount of cloud storage, with the ability to buy additional capacity when needed. The storage clouds themselves are provided by third-party operators, so the users can pick and choose where they want to host their data. Respect Network currently offers a choice of five Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) but this list is expected to grow in the future.

Once they have uploaded their data online, members can choose to share certain content with other members, including businesses. All sharing happens over private peer-to-peer connections – there is no middleman. Communications can be encrypted, with the keys stored wherever the user chooses.

Drummond Reed, CEO of Respect Network, told TechWeekEurope that his company is not in the business of data exchange – instead, its aim is to foster fair, transparent relationships between consumers and brands.

That’s why all members, including businesses, have to sign up to the Respect Trust Framework, a semi-legal document which outlines the principles of the network. This document won the Privacy Award at the 2011 European Identity Conference, and is continuously updated by the community.

If the Respect Network really manages to help members earn money from their data, it could radically change the online economy, bringing to life ideas described by Jaron Lanier, Doc Searls and other philosophers of the digital age.

In his book “Who Owns the Future?” Lanier suggests that people should be paid for the information they create: from Facebook posts to readings of the GPS receivers to the contents of their shopping cart. This model would encourage active lifestyle, creativity, participation, and set the wheels of the economy back in motion.

The Respect Network currently has more than 70 founding partners, some of which have already started developing apps for the platform. UK-based partners include Allfiled, Ctrl-Shift, CitizenMe, Digital Animal, miiCard, mydex, MyProfessionalID, Paoga, Social Safe, SmarterComplaints and The Customers’ Voice.

The first million people to sign up will receive a lifetime membership for a one-time £17 fee. The goal of the First Million Member Campaign is to raise $25 million to grow the network, with $8 million going towards a Development Grant Program to fund development of new applications and services

Can you look after your personal data online? Take our quiz!

Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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