Conversations on Public Impact: How data trusts can preserve and protect your digital initiatives

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET

  • security

Please join the ethics working group in GSA’s Technology Transformation Service as they host a presentation about data trusts—a legal structure designed to manage data, code, and other digital assets.

This should be of interest to anyone tasked with managing others people’s data.

About the talk

Our digital lives are built on promises—promises about how technology will change your work; about who will maintain this code; about what will happen to your data. These promises are difficult to keep. People and organizations can have changes of heart, or changes of fortune. When they do, terms of service change, platforms close, data is sold or destroyed. As our lives are increasingly digitized, there is a growing need to ensure that promises about data can persist, even as surrounding circumstances change.

One solution for this may lie with trusts—a legal device to own something for the benefit of someone else. This presentation will focus on the development and application of data trusts—specialized trusts designed to manage data, code, and other digital assets. We’ll explain what a data trust is, and why it might be worth using. We’ll also talk about in-development applications for data trusts, including:

  • Preserving a digital project’s mission beyond the life of an organization or initiative.
  • Helping communities manage and direct decisions about their data.
  • Standardizing data ethics protocols across collaborating research organizations.

Finally, this presentation will touch on other potential applications of trusts that may be relevant to government, such as data preservation, public-private partnerships, and pseudo-private regulation.

About the presenter

Keith Porcaro is a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and a principal at Digital Public. A lawyer and technologist, his work focuses on the development of digital legal norms, and building participation in complex systems. Keith is the co-founder of Digital Public, which uses trusts to help communities protect and govern digital assets. Previously, Keith was CTO/General Counsel at SIMLab, where he helped governments, legal aid organizations, and other nonprofits use technology to improve their work.

Keith has a JD from Duke University School of Law and a BSFS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is licensed to practice law in California.