About Us

What is Customer Commons?

The mission of Customer Commons, a California-based non-profit, is to restore the balance of power, respect and trust between individuals and organizations that serve them.  We stand with the individual and therefore do not take contributions from commercial entities. We are run and funded by customers.

Building on the work of ProjectVRM at Harvard’s Berkman Center, Customer Commons provides individuals with the knowledge and tools they need to shape their online relationships.  We believe this is increasingly important in a world where online and offline activities are rapidly merging.  Big data, behavioral tracking, mobile geo location and other emerging data collection practices are altering the fabric of our shared social and economic relationships.

Customer Commons holds a vision of the customer as an independent actor who retains autonomous control over his or her personal data, desires and intentions.  In this vision, each of us will act as the optimal point of integration and origination for data about us. Customers must be able to share their data and intentions selectively and voluntarily. Individuals must also be able to know exactly what information is being held about them by those who gather it, by whatever means. To achieve this, customers must be able to assert their own terms of engagement, in ways that are both practical and easy to understand for all sides.

Customer Commons believes that informed and empowered customers, free to make unbiased choices based on their own intentions, are more powerful and engaged participants in the marketplace.  Free customers are more valuable to themselves, to vendors and to the market economy, than captive ones. Data from free customers that is volunteered intentionally is a far more useful form of economic signaling than either coerced data from captive customers, or from invisible surveillance. As the Internet increasingly comes to dominate global communications and commerce, informed and autonomous customers will become critical to a healthy, civil, democratic society.

What We Do

As a public-facing organization focused on the emerging issues at the intersection of the empowered customer and the public good, Customer Commons seeks to both educate and inspire change for customers worldwide.  We do this through research, educational initiatives and promotion of customer side tools.

Customer Commons seeks to meet customers where they naturally are, while offering a way forward that demonstrates practical alternatives.  Our work is grounded in research exploring public attitudes toward customer relationships with vendors, online and offline.  We also research solutions under development, seeking to understand, present and advocate viable approaches. This information supports the development of new tools and methods while also informing the larger Internet policy conversation and our vision of an empowered individual in the context of a healthy and dynamic market-based system.

All of Customer Commons’ programs reflect the values of truly transparent and flexible methods for individuals to maintain their unique voices in relationship to other entities in the marketplace.  Therefore, we support technological approaches that are primarily personal, not social, designed from the outset to help customers clearly express their own intent.  Our work will help customers engage in equal and open relationships that do not lock them in to a single set of solutions.  We believe the market will support independent customers. With truly engaged customers, businesses, governments and institutions of all kinds will have countless more willing hands, heads and hearts to solve the problems of our world, while creating prosperity for all.

Board of Directors

Nitin Badjatia serves as Director, Market Strategy at Oracle Corporation. Prior to his current role, Nitin was Director, CX Strategy – Knowledge Solutions at RightNow Technologies (acquired by Oracle in 2011).  Prior to RightNow, Nitin was Director, Business Strategy at Knova Software, and was a part of the financial services practices at Siebel Systems and Oracle (his first stint at the software giant).



Jennifer Cobb is Principal at Spruce Advisers, a strategy and communications consultancy dedicated to the intersection of technology and social good. Jennifer has served as a senior staff member at both venture-backed start-ups and in the non-profit sphere.  She currently works with organizations working to further the positive impact of technology.     



Iain Henderson  is Founder at The Customer’s Voice a builder of personal data and VRM-style services for individuals. Iain is a long term CRM practitioner and customer data specialist who has long advocated the need to build personal data services that work for individuals in order to complement the tools available to organizations.              



Leyla Hill is VP Business Affairs and General Manager at Hearts of Space, the long-running public radio music program and online music service. Her diverse background includes data processing administration (in the pre-PC heyday of mainframes) and business management, editing, and publishing administration. She currently oversees all business and legal affairs and customer service for Hearts of Space.        



Mary Hodder is an entrepreneur, founder, user researcher, user advocate and early adopter. She founded Dabble.com in 2005 and she also founded a mobile app called “wellness mobile” to self track and share one’s own wellness.  Hodder has worked with large and small organizations as an information architect and interaction designer, creating algorithms, and conducting user research in the form of usability studies, needs assessments and heuristics.



Doc Searls is co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, a business classic, and The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge. He is also Senior Editor of Linux Journal, a fellow at the Center for Information Technology & Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an alumnus fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, where he runs ProjectVRM, which coordinates development of tools for customer independence.    



Steven Tulsky is Principal of The Benemetrics Consulting Group, advising nonprofit organizations and emerging businesses in the areas of financial strategy, planning, and management. He enjoys lending his quantitative expertise to organizations that understand their clients and their services better than they understand their numbers. Prior to developing his consultancy, Mr. Tulsky  held roles in industry including Chief Financial Officer, Director of Finance, Treasurer, and Assistant Treasurer of large, medium, and small public and private firms.



Joyce Searls is a serial entrepreneur with a varied background in the fashion, restaurant and real estate development fields. In addition to Customer Commons, she has multiple management and board roles, including Linux Journal and Project VRM. She also collaborates with her husband, Doc in their consultancy, The Searls Group.         




* – We are currently in the process of filing and fulfilling all of the procedures necessary for our non-profit status. We will let you know when this process has been completed, which is targeted for 1H2012.

2 thoughts on “About Us

  1. Carl Symons

    I installed Web Pal and have used it for a short time. Nice to eliminate the ads and clutter.

    However, when I open a new tab, I get a customer commons start page instead of what I want…a blank page. I don’t see any way to change this in the extension settings or on the page.

    How do I get a blank NewTab page?


    1. dontmineonme

      We are so pleased you like our Web Pal, and we love getting feedback! Others have also asked for a blank “New Tab” feature, and our next version supports it. You will be able to configure the “New Tab” as blank, tiled with commonly visited websites, or see our news feed. The new release will also have Respect Network features, another step forward for individual rights. If you can wait, leave the Web Pal as it is and it will update automatically when we release. If you’d rather uninstall until we are ready, then keep checking back here, or join the Emmett notification list at http://www.emmettglobal.com/contact.php to get an email announcing the new Web Pal release. Emmett makes the Web Pal for non-profits like Customer Commons who are aligned with their mission of “Data For Good.”

      Karen L Gordon
      Project Manager
      Data For Good


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