User Control and Trust on Connect.Me

Some people have asked us:  “Why does Connect.Me use social logins, and does Connect.Me automatically notify the people I vouch for?

First, the reason Connect.Me uses social logins such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter is so we can:

  1. Import your connections on that network to make it easy to vouch for them.
  2. Give you the option to easily notify someone when you vouch for them.

Second, Connect.Me only notifies people if you click “Notify” at the bottom of the vouchbox. If you don’t want any notification to be sent, just click “Close” at the bottom of the vouchbox. (In fact, if the person you are vouching for is already a member of Connect.Me and has turned off notifications on their Connect.Me Settings page, they will not be notified even if you do send them a notification. They’ll just see the vouch the next time they log in.)

Important: even if you choose not to notify a friend about a vouch, that friend can still use your vouch to join the Connect.Me private beta. All your friend needs to do is login to Connect.Me with the social network account on which gave the vouch, e.g., if you vouched for a Twitter friend, that friend must login with that Twitter account to enter the Connect.Me private beta. Once your friend joins, they can then choose to claim all vouches they have received on all the social network accounts they have by connecting those social networks.

The reason that we are so diligent about this is because Connect.Me is based on full user control, as detailed in the Respect Trust Framework — this is the reason Connect.Me received the Privacy Award at the European Identity Conference in May 2011.

If you are passionate about user control and trust online, please consider joining our trust anchor program — details are in this blog post.

What’s Coming Next in the Connect.Me Private Beta

Many thank you’s are in order to all the early Connect.Me private beta users. The response has been overwhelmingly positive to the idea and need for a peer-to-peer reputation system on the social web.

I’d like to take a few minutes to pop out of the product development cave, introduce myself, and quickly answer a some of the common questions.

My name is Joe Johnston. I’m the CEO, product guy, and co-founder of Connect.Me.


Q: What’s next for the Connect.Me beta?

A: If you’ve tried out our private beta, you’ve probably vouched for a bunch of people, earned some badges, and are now wondering what you can do with your Connect.Me card. Fear not, new features are launching soon. We wanted to keep the private beta simple to help people find and vouch for each other.

Here are just a few of the upcoming features:

  • Embeddable Cards & Widgets – embed in your blog to help people promote & discover you
  • Public Directory – find interesting and respected people on the social web based on peer reputation instead of reach or influence
  • Find People in Your Extended Network – browse your network and extended network by tags


Q: I already preregistered for Connect.Me, when will I be let into the private beta?

A: We are letting in new people everyday, but our backlog of users is over 50k and growing. It pains me as an entrepreneur and developer to not let everyone in at once, but right now, we’re focusing heavily on the getting the full product built while improving scalability.


Q: Will I be able to rename tags on my card?

A: Yes. Part of the secret sauce of Connect.Me is our taxonomy being built-out behind the scenes. When we launch the public beta (we’re currently in private beta), you will be able to transfer vouches between synonymous tags.


Q: Can I remove vouches?

A: Yes. You can both remove vouches you’ve given as well as vouches you’ve received.


Q: What is Connect.Me’s business model?

A: The future of the social web depends heavily on solving issues of trust and reputation. Whether it’s answering the question of “Can I trust this seller or buyer?“, or “Who are the most respected bloggers?“, reputation is the next big business on the social web.

Connect.Me will make money by helping connect people to each other and reputable businesses. While we can’t publicly discuss the details of our business model just yet, we can unequivocally say that we DO NOT mine or sell user data, ever. We even won a European privacy award for our commitment to your data privacy – European laws are much stricter than in the US around privacy.


Q: Is it safe to login with my social network accounts? Can I trust Connect.Me?

A: This question is near and dear to our hearts as both citizens of the social web and as a company building on top existing social networks. The short answer yes, but you shouldn’t take my word for it.

Because we’re in private beta, we haven’t done a great job on letting people know what we’re doing with their data. But behind the scenes, people are really excited about Connect.Me in part because we’re so committed to protecting your data and privacy.

Connect.Me was awarded the prestigious 2011 European Identity Conference Privacy Award before we even launched the private beta. Our groundbreaking trust framework and privacy policies ensure your data is safe and Connect.Me is a brand you can trust. But if you’re still uneasy about logging in with your social networks, we understand and encourage you to wait until we’re out of private beta before participating.

If I can answer any other questions, please let me know by posting a comment.

And again, many thank you’s to everyone for your interest and participation in Connect.Me. We can’t wait to show you what’s coming next and fully open up the private beta!


Trust Levels and Trust Anchors

As people begin using the Connect.Me beta, questions are starting to come in, “What are the different trust levels? What is a trust anchor? How can I become a trust anchor?”

The formal answers are in the Respect Trust Framework, the legal foundation upon which Connect.Me is based. It was originally announced at the European Identity Conference in May (where it won the Privacy Award). The full background is available in The Personal Network, the 22-page white paper released at the same time.

But for a much shorter set of answers, read our short PDF Building Lasting Trust: The Game Dynamics of the Respect Trust Framework. It’s only 8 pages, and it explains everything including how Founding Trust Anchors are appointed. (Extra credit: if you want to become a Founding Trust Anchor, instructions are at the end.)

Note: we haven’t turned on trust anchor vouching yet, so you won’t find any Trust Anchor or Founding Trust Anchor ribbons on Connect.Me cards yet. Also, mobile phone number verification to reach the Verified level isn’t enabled yet (except by doing it at Facebook and connecting your Facebook account). Stay tuned for both.

Lastly, if you are particularly interested in the subject, please join tomorrow’s Yi-Tan telecon at 16:30UTC, hosted by Jerry Michalski and Pip Coburn. The topic is Trust Networks, and specifically the role of trust anchors in Connect.Me.

It’s Great to be (a)Live

Although the Connect.Me beta has been in testing since August, we finally opened it up to the first batch of users from our beta invite list on Tuesday October 17th, opening day of the Internet Identity Workshop.

We are excited to see people’s first reactions. Internet entrepreneur Jeff Stollman sent us this in email:

I found vouching for others to be engaging and fun. It is a very positive experience to “flatter” people whom you admire and respect.  It takes on the feeling of a game that is fun to play and has no losers.

But what we love most is to see social vouching starting to spread. This morning UC Davis microbiology professor Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics), a speaker at last week’s Compass Summit, tweeted to his 7000 followers:

Playing w/ (@respectconnect) beta – has great potential as a “reputation” social network

Check out Jonathan’s Connect.Me page ( We were blown away to see he’s already vouched for 48 others. (Note: you can’t see the full list unless you are logged in.)

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know how much we believe the web needs a socially-verified reputation network. It’s great to see it starting out; now let’s all make it really happen.

If you are on our beta invite list but have not received an invitation yet, hang tight, it’s coming soon — we are staging out invitations so as not to swamp the network. If you’re really impatient and just want to try it now, here’s what to do:

  1. Go to and register (if you haven’t already).
  2. Email the Connect.Me username you registered to us at requests — at — connect — dot — me.
  3. We’ll enter a vouch for you as an “early adopter” and notify you by reply.
  4. You’re off to the races.

Happy vouching!

Data to the People: Two More Signs

Here are two more signs of progress towards a personal data ecosystem where individuals have the ability to easily aggregate and selectively share their personal data with a far greater degree of convenience and control than they have today:

Forrester just released a report by Customer Intelligence analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo entitled Personal Identity Management that has generously been made publicly available by — see this blog entry. Connect.Me is one of the companies interviewed in the report. Here’s the executive summary:

Consumers are leaving an exponentially growing digital footprint across channels and media, and they are awakening to the fact that marketers use this data for financial gain. This, combined with growing concerns about data security, means that individuals increasingly want to know when data about them is being collected, what is being stored and by whom, and how that data is being used. As a result, a nascent industry is forming, with the promise of giving consumers control over their own data. We call this phenomenon personal identity management (PIDM). In this report, we outline what we expect PIDM will look like, and we provide Consumer Intelligence (CI) professionals with the insight to prepare for this impending change.

The UK Government’s Department of Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) released a report entitled Better Choices: Better Deals — Consumers Powering Growth. Here’s the key announcement it contains:

We are helping consumers to access, control and use data held about them by businesses through a radical new programme of work called ‘mydata’. Over 20 leading businesses, covering financial services, retail, utilities, telecoms and online platforms, have agreed to work with Government on ‘mydata’.The applications of ‘mydata’ are potentially limitless.They might enable you to identify which of the 12 million mobile phone contracts is the best for you (based on your past 12 months usage); to understand what the average fat content of the food you purchase from supermarkets is; or to find out whether there might be better ways of saving your money or using your credit and debit cards. By helping you access your own data we believe a market in useful apps and websites will be stimulated – able to analyse your data for you, to make choosing the best deal easier.

(Note: this post by Ctrl-Shift, the London-based analyst firm covering this personal data power shift, explains why BIS has since renamed this initiative from “mydata” to “midata”.)

Both reports suggest why new person-centric approaches to building trust online, such as the Respect Trust Framework upon which Connect.Me’s services are based, are big wins for individuals as well as big wins for app developers and and vendors who understand why giving individuals control of their personal data is ultimately to their benefit.

This has been a key tenet of vendor relationship management since its inception by Doc Searls in 2005, and will be a major thrust of his new book, The Intention Economy, coming out next spring. And it adds even more momentum going into the 13th Internet Identity Workshop next week in Mountain View, CA.

“Global Data Banking”: Are the Banks Really Ready?

A fascinating new proposal for digital trust infrastructure was announced this week at the annual Sibos worldwide banking conference in Toronto. Sibos is organized by SWIFT, the Belgian-based cooperative that operates the global banking network (the network the banks themselves use to exchange money).

The proposal is called the Digital Asset Grid (DAG for short). Veteran financial technology journalist Jennifer Schenker of Informilo wrote this excellent article explaining the DAG and the unique role SWIFT could play in anchoring it.

In the words of Kostas Peric, head of innovation at SWIFT, “This innovation will bring bank-grade identity, privacy and security to the global exchange of any digital asset between any parties.” In essence, the DAG is how SWIFT and its member banks can expand from purely financial banking into “data banking” — the exchange of digital assets that are not money, but still need the same level of identity, privacy, and security, and trust as we currently require for the exchange of money.

For example, a corporation could use the DAG to conduct a fully electronic, auditable shareholder vote across hundreds of thousands of shareholders using the DAG. Any shareholder who was already “on the grid” (i.e., had a DAG account with a bank or other participating organization) would not need to register and authenticate with the corporation’s website to participate in the vote. Instead their electronic ballot would be delivered over the DAG to the shareholder’s verified account just like a wire transfer is delivered over the SWIFT network to a person’s bank account today. The completed ballot would be returned the same way.

The DAG is not just for companies. In fact one key reason it is called a digital asset “grid” (a term coined by SWIFT’s digital identity project team leader Peter Vander Auwera) is that, like an electrical power grid, it can be used to both consume and generate digital goods. For example, a professional blogger could use the DAG to syndicate blog posts to subscribing sites and automatically receive royalties directly back into her bank account based on the number of readers at each site, with a full audit trail throughout. All of this could be managed by a syndication app written by a third-party developer to use the SWIFT DAG API (Application Programming Interface).

Craig Burton, primary consultant on the DAG infrastructure, points out that this new platform would create an explosion of trusted data interchange apps just like iPhone and Android smart phone platforms have created an explosion of mobile apps. Electronic voting and blog syndication are just two of thousands of potential apps for a network where the identity, privacy, and security features required for trust are “baked in” and do not have to be built independently by every developer — the way every website needs to provide its own registration and login system today.

As a member of the team who worked with SWIFT to develop the DAG proposal (Connect.Me was invited to participate after we announced the Respect Trust Framework and won the Privacy Award at the European Identity Conference in May), I personally believe it could be the infrastructure-level solution to user-centric digital identity and privacy that the industry has been struggling to produce ever since the Microsoft Hailstorm and Liberty Alliance initiatives were launched a decade ago. It could be the basis for a personal data ecosystem that would be a sea-change in privacy and personal empowerment on the net.

I say “could” because, now that the proposal for the DAG is public, the really hard questions can be asked. For example, at the end of Jennifer’s article, she asked me: “How long do you think it will take to actually build the DAG?” I gave her my honest appraisal: “If SWIFT is ready and the banks are willing, building the DAG using a self-reinforcing digital trust framework can be done as fast as you can build a Twitter – about four years”.

But is SWIFT ready? Are the banks willing? Do they really understand the staggering economic and social potential of a global network that can do for the trusted exchange of any data what the current banking network has done for the trusted exchange of money?

Stay tuned.

Connect.Me at Sibos Toronto

Connect.Me’s Drummond Reed is speaking in three different sessions at this year’s Sibos worldwide banking conference Sept 19-23 in Toronto:

  1. Monday: Drummond will be talking about reputation and social data in the Social Data and Collaboration Deep Dive session (16:00-17:30).
  2. Tuesday: Drummond and K&L Gates partner Scott David, legal architect of the Respect Trust Framework, will be giving a keynote on Data Leverage, Trust Frameworks, and Social Vouching in the Digital Identity Keynotes session (09:00-10:30), with followon in the Digital Identity Deep Dive (12:30-14:00).
  3. Wednesday: Drummond will speak about social graphs, reputation graphs, and the XDI Graph Model in the Standards Forum panel session, “Are Messages the Only Answer” (12:30-13:30).

If you are coming to Sibos, we look forward to meeting you at one of these sessions. We also invite you to view our short YouTube video for Sibos attendees, What is Connect.Me?