Santa Cruz Startup Changes the Game of Online Privacy!

This is a blog post by Civinomics’ very own Nora Lewis. Privacy Choice is a local startup here in Santa Cruz and they’re changing the way we think about privacy. Here at Civinomics, we have an inherent interest in promoting new, innovative, and especially disruptive ideas. We think Privacy Choice is awesome, and you probably will too.


Ever wonder why all of the online advertisements show you all the items you clicked while shopping on the web?

With privacy becoming an increasingly hot topic amongst many internet users, the answer to this question may not be what you expected, or wanted, for that matter.

“Unfortunately, consumers are often unable to protect their privacy in a digital environment in which their personal information is increasingly collected and monetized for commercial purposes.”
– Rockefeller

Having access to your information is a lucrative tool for online advertisers. Not only are they capable of tracking your online movements, but they are also finding ways to market specifically to you through your patterns and behaviors.

These trackers and online gaps in the privacy of personal information are little-known sub-facets of the inner web. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Some have suggested that the government step in, but regulation can often create barriers to expression that may fail to address the problem with the appropriate scope and sensitivity that it requires. Enter Privacy Choice, a Santa Cruz startup whose mission is to protect consumers by providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions about privacy online.

Privacyscore.com helps not only empower the consumer to more easily understand the policies, but also to better see the risks associated with the companies that each web site is working with” says CTO and co-founder Jason Beatty.

Simply put, Privacy Choice is an online platform with two methods of supplying users and companies with more information about the intricacies of online privacy. Part one consists of privacychoice.org where users can go to find out more information about who is tracking their information and digital footprints. Part two is privacyscore.com, where Privacy Choice publishes “grades” of privacy policies for companies all over the internet. Furthermore, Privacy Score offers companies the option to purchase their analytics package so that the company itself can have the ability to calibrate its own policy and find out what other advertising companies are piggy-backing on their site.

The debate about online privacy and personal information is not a new one by any means, but one that has received a lot of attention as of recently. In fact, there was quite a bit ofexcitement initiated by the Obama administration with their endorsement of a piece of legislation called “The Privacy Bill of Rights”, a law intended to be a way of regulating online companies’ through allowing consumers to choose what data is collected on them, while requiring businesses to draft easier to understand privacy policies.

Privacy Choice believes their platform to be a healthier alternative. Unlike the government, Privacy Choice feels they have a better understanding of what online companies need and how to address the concerns of users. Rather than limit either party, Privacy Choice’s mission is to simply empower users with awareness. This awareness comes in the form of basic, easy-to-understand breakdowns of privacy policies and how they are directly going to affect you as an individual.

“Anyone can look at it and say that they ‘get it’…they don’t delete data/they do delete data; if there are online trackers that are attached to a website” states Beatty.

Understanding all of this is extremely important to users and their personal information because with a score and breakdown of the policy, given by Privacy Choice, a user may then choose whether the risks are worth the gains in any given situation.

Interestingly enough, Privacy Choice is a company grown right out of our own backyard, born and raised here at NextSpace Santa Cruz.

The company started two years ago when CEO Jim Brock met his match in Jason Beatty—his soon to be co-founder of Privacy Choice. Jason had extensive start-up savvy and knew how to sculpt the perfect team, while Jim had a plethora of research concerning online privacy. It was a match made in heaven…oh, wait…Santa Cruz.

“NextSpace creates a very positive ground zero for the Tech scene to grow” says Beatty, he has personally and professionally benefitted from being a part of the NextSpace community—the community helped to get the first 100 likes on their Facebook app.

Even better, all of this couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time. Given the ongoing boom in the tech industry just over the hill in Silicon Valley, the past five years have seen an overspill of great minds into Santa Cruz – where recently, tech startups have been

Privacy Choice, like many disruptive startups, is changing the way online companies operate. Having a score about privacy practices readily available to users holds companies accountable for their unsavory behavior regarding user information. This impact has been measurable, mainly in the immediate feedback from companies which came under the scrutiny of Privacy Choice. In the past couple months they have already received calls from numerous companies unhappy about their publicized score and curious as to how they may revise it—Angry Birds being one such company. No doubt, they won’t be the first.

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Chris Cairns

Saying “we’re disruptive” is about as generic anymore these days as saying “we have a solution.” Regardless, I can see how this sort of consumer visibility will force companies to change how they collect privacy-related data.