There’s no shortage of talk these days about being more respectful of users and their data. Too often it’s just talk — a new, “privacy” version of greenwashing.
Here’s how we walk the talk instead.
1. It’s our reason for existing
First Things First: we are literally defined by being privacy-oriented and user-respecting.
Simply put, Readocracy exists to challenge today’s status quo that seems to assume the only way to make money online is to exploit people’s attention for advertising. We made Readocracy precisely to fight this trend, as we explain in our manifesto and our Guiding Principles. We are thoroughly mission-driven. We want to create a world where the benefits of your attention accrue to you, the end user, and in a more meaningful way.
Need proof? Mozilla awarded us, only 1 of 3 teams, out of over 1,500 applicants for their #FixTheInternet Open lab. SXSW picked us as 1 of only 5 teams, from over 500 candidates, in their social impact category.
2. It’s in our business model
We don’t, and will never, transact in your data, or use it in a way not explicitly for the purpose of providing you the benefits you signed up for. So how do we make money then?
It’s extremely telling how most users today automatically assume you must inevitably be making your money by selling them and their data down the river. Not here.
Our revenue sources come from providing services to our end users:
- Readers use Readocracy for free, but have the option to pay for premium features such as Linkedin upgrades, exploring badges and certificates they own, advanced personal insights for digital mental health, and more.
- Knowledge-driven organizations can pay per user for their employee’s premium accounts, including full digital mental health features, and to unlock company features. These help teams improve knowledge sharing internally, and impressively convey expertise externally, all in a privacy-first way.
- Publishers, who we partner with (if they’d like to offer Readocracy natively to their readers), can choose to pay extra for advanced in-site community features.
It’s worth noting that it’s not enough to have a user-respecting model if the economics don’t add up, because then it won’t be sustainable. In our case, there is more market potential in how we are valuing attention (i.e. for learning and reputation), than digital advertising-related data use can provide (i.e. selling out your users), thankyouverymuch.
$330B global digital advertising market < $1T+ spent annually on learning (and 84% of the value of the S&P500 is in Reputation & IP, which is $21T)
3. It’s in our UX, from start to finish
We are proud of the fact that Readocracy has the most privacy-first UX most of our users have ever encountered, ensuring that users are explicitly in control:
- You can literally see when Readocracy is active, and you can see when it saves anything.
- You decide what is public, otherwise it defaults to private - and we have built-in prompts to help you make these decisions as you encounter new subjects.
- You can define your own exclusion list for terms or sites you don’t want Readocracy to appear on at all - in addition to our built-in, comprehensive block list that automatically switches content to private if it detects anything potentially sensitive.
- Every single Sunday we remind our users what they saved, and how they saved, so they can double-check and be confident everything is public or private the way they wanted. You can delete anything easily, any time.
Beyond that, you can also notice our priorities in what defines “success” on Readocracy: it’s quality, not quantity. We prioritize signal, not noise; helpfulness, not hysteria; intent not compulsion. We’re not here to make you mindless with your time, we’re here to make you mindful of it instead. Our extension does this, the insights drive it home, and we’ve got more features on the way that help you be your best, even when that means spending less time with Readocracy.
4. It’s humane before regulation calls for it
Readocracy has been compliant with all the emerging privacy regulations by default, because it’s made with humane technology principles, which includes having no hidden trackers or cookies.
Finally, users can delete their accounts and data easily, and whenever they want. We don’t attempt to strong-arm users into keeping a copy of their data on our servers. We only consider data to be useful for giving users the experience they asked for. How’s that for a refreshing difference?
5. It’s in our infrastructure
Last but not least, we’re thoroughly user-first in our obsession with keeping our user’s data safe. We’ve put disproportionate energy and resources into this, long before a company of our size normally would.
First, we cover the basics: we’re PCI compliant and undergo regular scans and reviews that satisfy e-commerce merchant requirements for handling financial transactions and similar sensitive information (for user subscription payments). And we’re GDPR and CCPA compliant, which should come as no surprise given the points outlined, particularly around absolute user control and visibility.
But then we go further. All data transfer to us is encrypted, and stored in state-of-the-art facilities (same as IBM), and is only accessible by our most senior technical employees strictly when it is necessary to resolve technical issues. Even then, user identities and user data are stored separately, so a senior technical employee can’t see the name or identity of a user even when viewing the data itself.
We’ve even made it such that individual user data is scattered across multiple database clusters, with user identifiers “salted”, such that a user’s content history can never be associated with them. Essentially, even if somebody somehow accessed one, or even all of our database clusters, they would also need the encrypted keys that tie everything together. This was set up with direct technical guidance and insight of senior system administrators and architects from some of the biggest names in global tech.
We treat our user’s data like it’s their lives we’re protecting.
In a world that seems to be built on posturing and paper-thin PR, where internet users are rightfully paranoid, we think it’s more important than ever for companies to stand up and make a clear, unambiguous statement on where they stand, and why they stand.
And then explain, elaborate, and prove it. This is one of our many attempts to do so.