Digital Lab aims to shift power back into the hands of consumers with an initial $6M gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the foundation of craigslist founder
YONKERS, N.Y. – Consumer Reports (CR), the nonprofit advocacy organization, today announced the launch of a new Digital Lab that will focus on consumers’ rights in the digital era. Initial funding comes from a $6 million philanthropic investment from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the single largest gift in CR’s history.
CR’s new Digital Lab will shine a light on the data privacy and security issues that consumers increasingly face, as well as examine the broader topics of fair market competition, transparency, and consumer choice in today's digital marketplace. By scaling its expertise in product testing and research, investigative journalism, and advocacy for the digital era, Consumer Reports will expand its efforts to protect, educate, and empower consumers in our increasingly connected world.
“We deal with a complex set of challenges in today’s digital era, and this investment will expand Consumer Reports’ scope to address critical issues that impact consumers,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies and former board member of Consumer Reports. “Consumer Reports has a strong track record – from ensuring the security of seatbelts in cars to keeping toxins out of food – and this new initiative will increase transparency in the digital marketplace, bolstering consumers’ ability to have more control, more options, and stronger voices.”
The primary focus of the Digital Lab will be to research, rate and report on companies’ products and practices that impact data privacy, security, transparency, and fair competition. The Lab will eventually investigate data collection across every category of products and services that CR tests, rates, and reviews. This will represent a significant step forward for CR’s efforts to protect and advance consumers’ digital rights.
The Lab will also serve as the foundation for CR’s work to hold the tech industry to higher standards and advocate for marketplace protections, including tougher privacy laws and antitrust enforcement. Despite the recent wave of data privacy problems and security breaches, regulators and policymakers have failed to put meaningful standards in place. The Digital Lab will help fuel CR’s efforts to improve connected products and advocate for the government to be a stronger watchdog on behalf of consumers.
“Today’s digital giants have unprecedented influence over the choices we make, the information we receive, and the ways we experience the world, and that influence is often hidden from us,” said Marta Tellado, CEO and President of Consumer Reports. “The rapid growth of these companies is sapping us of our ability to control our own lives and make informed decisions, and our government has been unable or unwilling to keep them in check by setting appropriate and necessary standards.”
Tellado continued: “Our digital testing has already showed how products and services we use every day can expose us to many new and potential harms. Consumer Reports’ new Digital Lab will reveal precisely how and where our rights are undermined by the unchecked influence of technology. Armed with that knowledge, consumers can make more secure choices that protect our privacy and hold these giants to account.”
To help inform and direct the Lab, CR is forming a new digital advisory council, which will be made up of experts and thought leaders who represent technology, academia, and journalism. With Newmark serving as the honorary chair, the council will help empower individuals to reshape the marketplace and evolve consumers’ rights.
The Digital Lab is the latest in a series of CR’s efforts to protect and advance the digital rights of consumers. Newmark’s vision and investment were essential to the 2017 launch of CR’s Digital Standard, which the nonprofit developed in partnership with a group of privacy and security experts to evaluate connected products. CR recently applied the Digital Standard to its TV testing, finding that certain smart TVs were vulnerable to hacking. This led Samsung to fix its security flaw.
With the launch of the Digital Lab, CR is planning a wide variety of initiatives for the months ahead. The nonprofit is using the Digital Standard to evaluate the privacy and security of printers and routers. It will expand testing to include a broad range of connected home products, password managers and other digital devices and services. It will also research digital tools that help people understand and adjust their online privacy settings. CR will announce more programs in the near future.
About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For more than 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.
About Craig Newmark Philanthropies
Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. The organization works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans and military families. For more information, please visit: CraigNewmarkPhilanthropies.org.