Toward (a) Civic Trust:

No Experimentation Without Representation

Data - in its many different forms - has become the focus of urgent policy discussions this past year, from the municipal to the federal level and particularly in the smart city context. Some of the questions we have been wrestling with are:

  • Who controls it?

  • Who can use it?

  • Under what terms?

  • How do we leverage data as a public good?

  • How do we manage aggregate data?

  • How are we going to manage our public data as an economic asset?

  • How are we to assert our digital rights as the residents of a smart city?

One proposed approach to address some of these issues is through the creation and use of data trusts. So what is a data trust

You don't need to know anything at all about the idea of data trusts to join us. Zero.

This is an event for EVERYONE.

This is a very introductory session to begin to explain the idea. We'll leave lots and lots of time for Q&A to make this a really open and interactive session. We'll have snacks and subway tokens. If you have any questions at all please send a note to Bianca Wylie (

Tech Reset Canada, Digital Justice Lab, Centre for Digital Rights and Geothink are thrilled to be hosting Sean McDonald, Co-founder of Digital Public, and a long-time advocate of data trusts, to help us do that.

We'll talk about what exactly a data trust is, what it isn't, and why we might want to use them to manage our data in a range of situations. We'll do this in a conversational format with Bianca Wylie, co-founder Tech Reset Canada, asking some questions and moderating our full room discussion.

More about Sean McDonald:

Sean McDonald builds governance for technology and technology for governance. Sean is the co-founder of Digital Public, which uses trusts to help communities protect and govern digital assets. He is a lawyer and the CEO of FrontlineSMS, an award-winning global technology company. Sean is a Visiting Fellow at Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab, and a former Affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center.

Sean is an advisor to Digital Democracy, the IEEE's Ethics and AI Committee, and a member of ICANN'S Rights Protection Mechanism Group. He is a researcher and writer whose work has been published by the Review of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Cornell’s Legal Informatics Institute, the Center for Internet and Society, and Innovations Journal, among others. He holds a JD/MA from American University, with specializations in international law and alternative dispute resolution.