Making Me2B happen

me2b symbol
The IEEE P7012 working group has been baking a Standard for Machine Readable Personal Privacy Terms for the last two years. What’s original here is that these are terms that you proffer. Not ones that sites and services present on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. P7012 is one of several overlapping efforts that work on empowering you and me—customers, users, consumers, individual human beings—and not just entities selling us stuff, or requiring that everything we do with them is confined to an account they control.

Born in 2006, ProjectVRM is the oldest of these efforts. Customer Commons, spun out of ProjectVRM in 2013, is another. The most recent is the Me2B alliance, founded and run by Lisa LeVasseur, who now also chairs P7012.

Progress forward on all of these efforts is steady, incremental, and not nearly fast enough. But here is something that I hope will speed things up: supporting the Me2B label. The need for this was made clear by Lisa on our last P7012 call, when she explained that Me2B is its own thing. A category. A term of art. Meaning it’s not about the Me2B Alliance, just like VRM is not about ProjectVRM.

By now it should be clear that Me2B a better name for our category than VRM. As I said in VRM is Me2B, Me2B is blessed by containing an actual word: Me—a first-person singular pronoun we all use—and far better than the unclear V in the TLA that is VRM. It also doesn’t help that “vendor” is used more often in business to refer to B2B suppliers, rather than to B2C retailers or service providers.

We also have experience with tissue rejection of the VRM label within our own community. Throughout the history of ProjectVRM, not one developer has called what they do VRM. Worse, some have avoided using the VRM label because they were afraid competing developers would also use it.  In other words, VRM developers, across the board, would rather differentiate with exclusive offerings than establish VRM as a category. So our own internal market has spoken on that.

Meanwnhile, one of those companies did us a big favor by calling what they did “Me2B.” So did the analyst house CtrlShift, with The Me2B Opportunity. Then Lisa came up with Me2B independently. I think in all three cases we heard the market speaking.

So I encourage all of us to start talking about Me2B, rather than VRM.

To be clear, “VRM” won’t go away. It’s in Wikipedia as well as in the name of our project here. And it’s a good way to label the customer hand that a CRM system will need to shake. But it has proven inadequate as the name for the business category we wish to see cohere in the world, while Me2B shows promise to succeed at the same. We should support it.

Thoughts welcome.


  1. This is a test of the commenting system. Ignore.

  2. A label that supports our efforts is most likely a good idea; here is an earlier attempt from way back in the Kantara Information Sharing Work Group. It’s based on the ‘food labelling’ approach. .

    However, the problem i’d flag is around what exactly is being labelled, and what therefore does the label mean? That sounds easy, but I suspect is not.

    For me, we need to find a way to tackle the old ‘chicken and egg’ problem which has always be-devilled our efforts. For example, I am a ‘member’ of Project VRM, of Me2B Alliance, of MyData Global, and other orgs/ projects in our space. None of them enable me to do anything with that membership status (sign-up, sign-in, prove status, re-use status) from tools that are on my side. If we crack that then we’ll have things to point to. In my experience, other than a few obvious suspects and the adtech industry, large organisations have never denied the logic of VRM, Me2B, MyData et al. WE’ve just not given them clear instructions on what they therefore need to do.

  3. Funding is feed for nonprofit chickens laying eggs of goods that provide tangible benefits to members.

    So, in the absence of what the U.S. military calls “robust funding,” organizations like the ones you list don’t have something concrete to offer for members. Meaning the best we can give is a sense of belonging and other warm fuzzies. Also, as you point out, doing anything with one’s membership isn’t easy or normalized. (I think for that we need to normalize how all subscriptions are done. (See here.)

    As for tangible goods, Consumer Reports has publications, which are a source of funding. As you know (disclosure to others: we’re both on the Customer Commons board), we have sometimes talked about having a publication as well. But that’s a costly undertaking. We also need money to hire developers for projects such as the Byway.

    So, Shockey’s Law: “Money is the answer. What is the question?”

  4. Doc, between your talent for words, and you being the VRM visionary/founder, if you think we should support the Me2B label I’m all for it. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do differently, but suppose I can start the term Me2B in sentences where I would have put VRM.

  5. Iain, fyi – the Rise of Privacy Tech is working hard on awareness and funding for privacy related tech (Yet another “membership” organization.)

  6. Thanks, Paul. That’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t think we can or should banish VRM as a label, but we should try to use Me2B as much as we can, and get it going as a Thing.

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