Team: Alex Selkirk, Geoff Desa, Tony Gibbon, Grace Meng, Pecky Pezely, and Mimi Yin.

How we got started...

The Common Data Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit created by Alex Selkirk in the December of 2007 with the intent of exploring alternative models for privacy, data collection and data re-use that would result in the creation of a public data store of sensitive personal information, accessible to researchers, policymakers, individuals and businesses in a safe and private way.

Over the last 10 years of designing, building and using data collection systems, first at Epinions and then Microsoft, Alex saw both how valuable data collection was to the companies he worked for as well as the intrinsic limitations of how it was being done. Privacy policies were pitted against data collection in a tug of war that hamstrung data analysis efforts while failing to provide compelling reasons to users to feel good about online services tracking their behaviors.

At the same, Alex became interested in how the data collection techniques being developed in the tech sector could be applied to collecting and releasing data for public use and saw an opportunity to create a more mutually reinforcing model for data collection.

In December of 2007, Alex incorporated the organization and donated the seed money to start the Common Data Project. Grace, Mimi and Geoff joined the team in early 2008.

The Common Data Project would like to thank Van Ness Feldman and in particular Ashley Garber for donating their time and expertise to help us through the IRS 501(c)(3) application process.

Alex Selkirk EMAIL


Alex is currently the principal of SGM, a consulting business he created in 2007 specializing in designing and building large-scale data collection systems and the privacy strategies that go along with them. Alex graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University in 1999.

Geoff Desa EMAIL

Board Member

I am an Assistant Professor of Business at San Francisco State University, and my research focuses on technology social enterprise. With past experience in engineering, entrepreneurship and strategic management, I'm excited to be advising a venture that understands both the potential and challenges of harnessing technology to serve the public interest.

Geoff holds a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management, with a minor in Public Affairs, from the University of Washington in 2008, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1999 and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2001.

Tony Gibbon EMAIL

Contributor, Developer (SGM, LLC)

For the past four years, I’ve been building large-scale data collection systems and spent a lot of time digging through mountains of messy data to figure out what it means and what its flaws are. As a result, I have gained a deep appreciation of both the potential and inherent limitations of depending on data to make decisions and drive a service. Incorporating the big picture into an analysis of the facts is essential to providing satisfactory answers to complex questions.

As a contributor to CDP, I’ve been working primarily on understanding differential privacy and implementing two tools for assisting others to do the same.

I feel that today, a lot of very valuable, sensitive data is under lock and key, available only to a privileged few to make use of. As a result, much of that data is probably underutilized. I am interested in CDP's potential to make such data available to many more people in order to expand the creative possibilities of how data is used and whom it benefits.

Tony graduated from University of Washington with a B.S. in Computer Science.

Grace Meng EMAIL

Emeritus - Education and Communications

As a lawyer, writer, and card-carrying member of my local public library, access to information has always been important to me. After several years of practicing immigration law, I was excited to shift my focus from fighting the system to building a new system for information and knowledge. I was especially interested in how shared access to accurate information could change our public discourse on controversial issues and help us advance social justice in new and imaginative ways.

Grace graduated with a J.D. from Yale Law School in 2003 and a B.A. in English Literature from Yale College in 1999. Grace became a certified privacy professional in 2009.

Becky Pezely EMAIL

Contributor, Program Manager (SGM, LLC)

I come to the Common Data Project with over twelve years of practice in planning, designing, managing and releasing software products at Microsoft. My work has always been driven by a personal passion for effective visualization, presentation, and communication of information and ideas. My hope for CDP is to see it succeed in providing the tools we need to unlock the powerful stories that lie within data, tools that will enable expanded access to high quality data. Becky holds a B.A. in Computer Science, with a certificate in Women's Studies, from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1997.

Mimi Yin EMAIL

Board Member

I’ve been designing software for over 10 years for both desktop applications and information-intensive web properties. I was the Product Designer on the Chandler Project, an open source personal information manager and sharing service designed for small group collaboration.

Mimi is currently a student at NYU Tisch School for the Arts - ITP Program. Her area of focus is interactive environments for performance and applications of generative techniques to choreography. Mimi graduated with a B.A. in Music from Yale University.