Launching Personal University

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

We frequently get questions about our efforts to empower individuals with data – and how to work responsibly with companies and governments to help catalyze that model. They run the gamut from the technical- and product-oriented to business, marketing, policy and legal.

While some are specific to Personal, most apply to any permission-based, user-centric, “small-data” app or company – which are starting to spring up around the globe as an alternative, sustainable way to power data-driven personalization and services (i.e., just about everything that is connected these days).

So we decided to launch Personal University to share what we’ve learned, show what we’ve built, and tell the world about what our users and partners do with Personal today.

First and foremost, we are a technology and product company. That means our best thinking is reflected in the platform, apps and code we’ve developed over the last few years.

We won’t ignore the big societal questions along the way, but we think we’ll make a greater contribution by focusing on the actual tools, infrastructure and commercial value propositions we think are necessary — and that we’ve made available through Personal — to make this model a reality.

In that spirit, we’re inaugurating Personal University with a video on the Personal Platform. Unlike most companies, we couldn’t start building apps or services for people to use without a radically new technical foundation designed around the absolute domain of the individual over the personal data and files they manage in our service – and the security and privacy of that data.

Launching the World’s Largest Form Library at Fillit.com

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

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We are excited to announce the launch of Fillit.com, a site dedicated to making all web and mobile forms 1-click fillable — and secure. You can read the press release here.

As of today, we have nearly 140,000 forms indexed, and are adding more than 1,500 forms daily. Each form is rated 1-4 stars depending on how well they work with autofill. We have a suite of mobile forms solutions for app and site developers, and we are introducing over 100 4 star-rated Smart Forms for most frequently used forms. We even support certain forms that are still only available in print.

Finally, we are launching a new Twitter handle for all things Fill It. We hope you will follow us there as well to keep up with our mission to use data vaults to transform how people share information with forms, companies, sites, and apps.

A New Round and Three Rock Star Board Members

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.
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I’m excited to announce that Bill Miller of Legg Mason has led a new $4.5 million round in Personal as an individual investor and will be joining Personal’s board of directors. On top of that, Esther Dyson and Jonathan Miller previously joined our board.

Bill is a legendary investor, best known perhaps as the only person to beat the S&P 500 for 15 years in a row. He has started a new streak: the Wall Street Journal survey reported last week that for four consecutive quarters in a row Bill and his Legg Mason Opportunity Trust have had the best 12 months performance of any mutual fund. His investment in CLEAR, the biometric secure identity management company known for speeding travelers through airport security, is well aligned with our mission of empowering people with the data they need to power their increasingly connected lives.

Esther is one of the most recognized angel investors and thinkers in technology today and has been a pillar in the emerging personal data ecosystem for a long time. She serves on the boards of global marketing conglomerate WPP Group, personal genetics company 23andme.com, and Meetup Inc., among others. She has focused on new business models and new markets, and does business as EDventure Holdings.

Jon is a leading digital executive, having served as chief digital officer of News Corporation, CEO of AOL, and President of Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. He’s currently a partner with media investor Shari Redstone in Advancit. Jon also serves on the boards of TripAdvisor (since its spinoff from Expedia) and Shutterstock, and was on the board of Tumblr until its acquisition by Yahoo.

Bill, Esther and Jon join our great backers to date, including Allen & Company, Eric Semler of TCS Capital Management, Steve Case’s Revolution Ventures, Grotech Ventures, Ted Leonsis and others.

What makes this moment special is the traction we’re getting with companies and organizations that understand the dramatic impact our user-centric model can have on their own success.

The model simply doesn’t work without trust, transparency, and, yes, privacy – or what I like to call “deciding who gets to see what.” We are building a bigger carrot, not a bigger stick, one that promises to allow more data, not less, to flow and be used with explicit permission by trusted third parties. We hope to catalyze a race to the top where companies compete for the privilege of partnering with individuals and their data.

I’ll finish by reposting these three quotes from our press release. I love the story they tell:

Bill Miller: “As a long-term investor, I have no doubt that Personal is building the most rational, sustainable model for the personal data ecosystem – one centered around the individual first and foremost. The fact that it is also so beneficial for use with trusted companies and apps – including improving their bottom lines, lowering their risks and enhancing their brands – really solidified my interest in investing.”

Esther Dyson: “To me, Personal represents the sea change from business-in-charge to consumer-in-charge – but with a business model that works. It requires not just vision but also scale and execution – and the ability to show a solid value proposition to both sides of the balance of power. I’m excited to help Personal deliver on its promise.”

Jon Miller: “Businesses, marketers and developers, especially those involved with digital media, are at a critical juncture where personal data is concerned. It’s one of their most vital assets, but current practices are not likely to be sustainable – and they are less compelling in any event than the promise of individuals bringing their own data to those experiences in a safe and convenient way. I am excited to help Personal go beyond being a productivity app into this new frontier of permission-based marketing and personalization.”

Check out our press release for more information.

Bills & Statements Now Available from 200+ Companies Using FileThis

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

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A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we would soon offer exciting new ways to help people access, share and easily reuse information from companies with whom they do business.

Today, we are excited to announce a new partnership with FileThis to automatically deliver bills and statements from the leading banks, credit card, insurance, utility, health and retail companies directly to your Personal vault.

Watch our VIDEO to learn more

Sign up for FileThis

Enjoy the peace of mind of a constantly updated archive of your records safely synced across all your devices, and rest easy knowing that your documents will be protected with the same encryption algorithms used by banks.

It’s ideal for paying bills, searching for transactions or securely sharing with a spouse, accountant or financial planner. For a company like Amazon, receipts from literally every purchase appear in less than 24 hours, while monthly or quarterly statements appear as soon as they are ready.

Also – import passwords, career and educational information!

In addition to our partnership with FileThis, we are also officially announcing Imports, a feature that makes it easy to automatically add and update information to your vault — everything from usernames, passwords and addresses to career and financial aid history and important documents — so that it’s always at your fingertips to reuse or share.

With our new “Add Data” button, you can also import:

  • Passwords from popular password managers to easily add your usernames and passwords to Personal
  • Education & Career History from LinkedIn and the U.S. Department of Education

Whether you’re adding bills and statements, passwords or education and career history, imports makes adding information to your vault quick and easy.

Follow us on twitter (@personal) to learn about upcoming product announcements – and let us know what you think.

What’s the Right Model for Personal Data Stores?

This post was originally published on Ctrl-SHIFT

Last week the US based personal data store Personal announced it was moving from a free to a paid for service. We caught up with co-founder and CEO Shane Green to ask him about the background.

1. What does this move from Personal suggest about the evolution of the PDS market as a whole?

I think it signals the emergence of a robust, stable business model that both consumers and companies already understand – you pay for a service or product that is valuable.

We believe the heart of the current PDS or personal data vault market opportunity is around productivity and convenience, in the vein of Evernote or Dropbox. While we see incredibly interesting VRM-type opportunities on the horizon, we have found that people immediately understand the value of a PDS if their lives are made easier and more convenient by it.

For that reason, we’ve priced our core service – $29.99 per year – at a price point that individuals are already paying for similar type services. And given the sensitive and private nature of certain data in a PDS, we have also found that people have more confidence in the privacy and security protections offered when there is a cost associated. And, of course, they don’t have the lingering suspicion about “being the product” that is being sold as can be the case with a free service.

I would add that we have also found a meaningful appetite among companies in certain verticals, such as banking, insurance, health and education, to help pay for such a service if it brings value to their customers. The fact that they are willing to pay for the service while respecting the integrity and sanctity of an individual’s control over a PDS is a huge step forward for the industry as a whole.

For more background on our announcement, please see these two links:
http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/techflash/2013/06/personalcom-is-now-charging-but-its.html?page=all http://blog.personal.com/2013/06/leaving-beta-becoming-a-paid-service/

2. What are the particular things that you think people will be prepared to pay for? (is it safe storage of my data, easy form filling etc.)

As I mentioned, it all starts with productivity and convenience that is demonstrable in their lives. Our paid service will give the user a number of benefits: secure storage of and constant access to important data, notes and files; secure sharing of this information with other people, apps and organizations; easy reuse of data through automatic form-filling; and easy imports of information and documents from companies and organizations they do business with. In addition, we will charge for additional services and benefits around security and other functionality. Stay tuned for details.

While our initial go to market partners see this as more of a value added service to offer their customers, what will take the paid service to the next level is evidence that connecting with customers via a PDS and private network can impact both their top and bottom lines.

3. It’s often said individuals are not prepared to pay for services like these. Is this conventional wisdom wrong? If so, why?

I think conventional wisdom reflected a certain reality that is changing. Quite simply, PDS services have not delivered enough tangible value to date. They have been too limited in the benefits they delivered, and most have been quite a lot of work to make useful.

But all of the hard work by the current wave of PDS providers is paying off, both because the products are delivering more value, and the macro trends could not be coming together more powerfully, whether it is the pervasiveness of smart phones in our lives, the explosion of connected devices and the data they generate, or the privacy and security discussions now dominating headlines.

Organizations like Ctrl-Shift, the World Economic Forum and the Aspen Institute have all been documenting this shift recently, including focusing on big companies and governments (such as the US and UK) that are innovating around ways to give data back to people. It all points to the fact that the concepts of data vaults and individuals gaining greater control and value over their information is becoming mainstream. Previously, people didn’t have the technology to properly leverage that information. That has changed with the emergence of a number of start-ups, including Mydex, Paoga, Qiy, Respect Network, and Personal. But this trend is not limited to start-ups. The World Economic Forum’s recent report highlighted Fortune 1000 companies that are also providing products and services that empower people with their information.

4. What areas will Personal be looking to develop with this new investment?

Our main focus is on making our PDS available when and where it is needed in a person’s life. We are super focused on the different contexts where people need data – or are creating data – and how to make the PDS seamlessly integrated while maintaining user control with privacy and security.

Ironically, many of those contexts involve companies, organizations, schools, hospitals, government agencies, apps, sites, etc. – third parties of all kinds. There is just no reason people need to manage such data interactions separately across what we call their “personal data graph.”

Just as the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement was inevitable, we believe the Bring Your Own Data movement is just an inevitable. But a BYOD world requires new kinds of permission and trust, and as that happens, I think you are going to see a wave of BYOD apps that are a magnitude better than current apps that either track us or require social data sharing. We are excited to help catalyze that ecosystem.

Note

Ctrl-Shift’s Personal Data Store report analyses the growth of the PDS market, while our Breakthrough Efficiencies research look at some of the benefits organisations can reap by linking to new personal data management services.

Leaving Beta & Becoming a Paid Service

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

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Today is an exciting day for Personal. We’re announcing that we’re leaving Beta and will become a paid service.

We started Personal with a mission to empower individuals to easily and securely store, share and reuse their personal data. Today, thanks to lots of hard work and the help of many loyal Owners and supporters, we are making this vision a reality.

Recent improvements to our data vaults make them faster, more intuitive and easier to use. Our Fill It app is helping people save many hours filling out online logins, checkouts, applications and other forms. Companies across industries, as well as schools and other organizations, are partnering with Personal to empower their customers with these revolutionary tools.

The next step in this journey starts today, as we become a paid service. This will enable us to invest more in our growing platform of vaults, Fill It and other apps to make your information even more valuable and beneficial to you. It also shows that, unlike so many other online services, at Personal, you are definitely not the product.

For $29.99 (about $2.50 per month, or the price of a nice cup of coffee), individuals will be empowered with the best data vault and automatic form-filling tools on the market, including:

  • Private, secure web and mobile vaults synced across your devices
  • Unlimited data storage and secure sharing
  • 50 MB of secure document and photo storage as well as integration with Dropbox for additional secure storage
  • Fill It app for automatic form-filling

As a thank you to our early Owners, we are keeping Personal free for anyone who has already signed up. Nothing will change for them.

New Owners, starting tomorrow, will be able to enjoy a 30-day free trial. If a new Owner does not subscribe after the free trial expires, they will still have a free Secure Data Viewer,  so they can view the information they have entered and any information that others have shared with them, even after the free trial expires. More details about the Secure Data Viewer will be coming soon.

Finally, I want to thank our loyal Owners and supporters. Without them, we could not have reached this exciting place. We look forward to more great things to come.

For details on how the paid service terms will work, click here.

A Rising Tide of Data, Partnered With Privacy by Design, Will Lift All Boats

This piece was originally published on the Disruptive Competition Project blog (DisCo).

 
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By Dr. Ann Cavoukian and Shane Green

Over the last year, we have started to see a remarkable shift in the way the world thinks about data and privacy. The old levies of compliance and binary permission settings are being washed away by a rising tide of data that is growing at a rate exceeding Moore’s Law.

In fact, more data will be created and captured this year than in all of human history. Fueling this explosion are connected devices so numerous that, according to a recent GSMA study, there will be more such devices throwing off data this year than there are people in the world.

In this rapidly changing data ecosystem, tools such as one-time notice-and-consent agreements and simple transparent disclosures are less helpful, perhaps becoming obsolete. Individuals can no longer be treated as passive data subjects who merely provide information for collection and use by an organization. Instead, more sophisticated approaches are required based on context-based approvals and, more importantly, informed individuals who are engaged with their data across their lives.

We too must evolve, and those companies and organizations that empower individuals to be full partners in this emerging personal data ecosystem will create tremendous value in the form of stronger, deeper and trusted relationships with their customers, thereby gaining new competitive advantages, including greater, not less, access to data.

The latest signs that these once revolutionary ideas are today becoming mainstream, and will tomorrow become the standard for doing business, are two recent reports by centrist, pro-business think tanks. Continue reading