In recent news, the controversy surrounding data privacy at Facebook has come to light in the popular press and caused many of us to realize that we really aren’t certain what data is being collected about us on various sites and apps, or how that data is being used. The Facebook brand and large following had created the illusion of trust, which was not backed up by a pro-user policy on data privacy. How many times have you “clicked to agree” without actually knowing what you are agreeing to? We don’t read it because we assume that (1) we can trust the integrity of the organization with whom we are about to do business, and (2) the trade of limited information is a reasonable consideration for the value we expect to get from the app.

I am not a Facebook user and I don’t pretend to comprehend the complexities of data management at the world’s largest social network. What I do know is that this incident should cause us to rethink our predispositions and assumptions around privacy. Integrity should not be assumed merely because of brand image or number of users; and our definition of limited may be entirely different than the definition held by the business with whom we are engaging. And to be sure, we need to recognize that most of the apps with which we interact are part of a profit-motivated business model – ask yourself, “How does this business make money?”

Avitru, as a strategic partner of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), has worked hard to manage the trust of our Architect and Engineer users. By putting Architects and Engineers first, we have had to say “no” to ‘pay-for-play’ in our MasterSpec construction specifications database. We have also had to say “no” to disclosing user and project information to our Manufacturer customers – who are willing to pay dearly for such data. The other entrants in this space don’t take the same approach – your private data is for sale, which is why your phone rings, or you receive a creepy email after you make a particular product specification. As part of our business model, we do help manufacturers get meaningful information, but only through aggregated data which do not identify our users or their projects.

We have consciously chosen our approach in accordance with our core value of integrity, but we also believe that maintaining trust is the winning strategy – the pervasive share of A/E projects on the Avitru platform will mean that we can provide services and capabilities that the other entrants cannot.

If you are interested in learning more about Avitru, MasterSpec, or how we prioritize the interests of Architects and Engineers, please email me at, or find me on Twitter (@JimContardi). I look forward to hearing from you.


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