80/20 Thinking

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80/20 Thinking Limited
Limited company
Industry Privacy, Information Security, Consultancy
Founded 2008
Founder Simon Davies, Thomas H Dee, Dr. Gus Hosein
Headquarters London United Kingdom
Area served
Website www.8020thinking.com

80/20 Thinking Limited was launched in January 2008 as a UK-based global privacy consultancy specialising in corporate and consumer advice in the fields of privacy, data protection, information security and corporate social responsibility. The company takes its name from the Pareto principle of cause and effect (also known as the 80/20 rule). It is a wholly independent company, owned and managed by its principal directors.

The company announced in a public statement on April 13, 2009 that as of August that year it would no longer engage with clients in a commercial capacity to provide consulting and advisory services and that, instead, it would focus on researching and developing privacy technology such as impact and audit tools amongst others. This change in mandate was partially due to the perception of conflict of interest between 80/20 Thinking and the involvement of its directors in the NGO Privacy International.


The company was incorporated in the UK on 25 January 2008 and was founded by Simon Davies, Thomas H. Dee and Dr. Gus Hosein. In addition to their work with Privacy International and 80/20 Thinking, Simon Davies and Gus Hosein are both Visiting Senior Fellows in the London School of Economics.[1][2]

80/20 Thinking's CEO Simon Davies, is also founder and director of Privacy International, one of the leading privacy advocacy bodies.[3] This dual role has been the cause of some public controversy (see below).

80/20 Thinking (occasionally truncated to "80/20") also comprises an advisory group including Sir Howard Davies, Director of the London School of Economics, security expert Bruce Schneier, the Earl of Northesk, the Countess of Mar, and business leaders such as Ray Stanton, Global Head of Security Business & Continuity for British Telecom.[citation needed]

Strategic partners[edit]

80/20 Thinking has aligned itself with a number of partner organisations, including strategic public affairs partner Burson-Marsteller and its academic partner the London School of Economics The company's legal partner is Covington & Burling

Notable clients[edit]

Among the company's clients are:[4]

The Financial Times profiled the company at its inception, giving an overview of its work and that of its CEO as part of a wider piece covering online Privacy.[5]


At the 80/20 launch in London in May 2008 Simon Davies surprised guests by remarking "I'd like to stand up here and tell you we have a business plan, but we don't". This admission is reflected in the company's organic growth, which has unpredictably - and even erratically - cut across the privacy spectrum.

Amongst the company's most prominent work has been the creation of Privacy Impact Assessments, which it has undertaken for organisations as diverse as the controversial Phorm targeted advertising system to the refugee centres of the United Nations.

In addition to its privacy assessment work, 80/20 Thinking has started to develop open enrollment and bespoke Privacy training courses. The company is currently vying for wide-scale public sector training in the UK.

A series of partnerships is also currently in train to establish a global privacy recruitment service for privacy professionals, including Chief Privacy Officers and Data Protection Officers.

Notable projects[edit]

The Working Group on Consumer Consent[edit]

In March 2008 80/20 took on management of a new project on informed customer consent, focusing on the online environment. The project, convened by the London School of Economics, involves Microsoft, BT, AOL, Vodafone, eBay & Facebook and aims to establish a cross-industry framework of understanding on the issue of informed consent for the processing of personal information. The project was created in response to a number of “Article 29” Opinions concerning Personally Identifiable Information. (See Article 29). The project has the formal support of the Information Commissioners of Ireland, France, the UK, Berlin, Madrid and Slovenia.

United Nations[edit]

80/20 Thinking is currently undertaking work with the UNHCR. As external evaluators to UNHCR 80/20 forms a core part of the internal UN evaluation of the registration systems operating in the camps, focusing on the use of fingerprinting technology. The evaluation commenced in June 2008 in Malaysia which was then followed by an evaluations of camps in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. 80/20 will then produce an independent Privacy Impact Assessment for UNHCR.

Ethics and public service[edit]

80/20 Thinking declares itself to be an ethical operation. This claim is demonstrated in part by a stated commitment to donate 50% of its profits to civil society groups working in developing countries. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is 80/20's charitable partner. APC announced the arrangement on its website in April 2008.[6] The aim of the partnership is to support initiatives in developing countries that are working towards strengthening democratic processes and civil liberties.

The partnership will offer a form of independent income that can be used to further APC’s internet rights program.

80/20 also diverts funds from its operating budget for pro bono work, including all administrative, consulting and travel expenses relating to the UNHCR missions.


From the start, 80/20 Thinking was subject to a degree of controversy in relation to its involvement with online marketing firm Phorm. Phorm commissioned 80/20 Thinking to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) prior to its UK public launch. The controversy related in particular to the involvement of Davies and Hosein as perception was widespread that Privacy International was endorsing Phorm. Davies later released a statement confirming that the work was solely an 80/20 Thinking Project and that Privacy International was not in the business of conducting PIA's for private ventures, much less promoting their services.

Some critics have expressed concern that Davies, who is sometimes described as the world's leading privacy advocate,[7] has compromised his independence by undertaking commercial contracts.

This issue was extensively covered in online and offline media, perhaps most notably in the article written by Charles Arthur of The Guardian.[8]

In response to the criticism, Davies said:

"Will people please read our report to Phorm. Read it in its brief entirety, once you'll do, you'll realise that there are no conflicts whatever. In that report we argue that the system should be opt-in, that there are unresolved questions, that the matter of legal compliance is irrelevant to the issue of intrusion."

On Tuesday April 15, 2008, 80/20 facilitated a Phorm "Town Hall" debate with open participation from public and media. The event overview can be found on the 80/20 Thinking website.[9] Present as a panelist at the meeting was Dr. Richard Clayton of Cambridge University and FIPR

The Google affair and change of direction[edit]

On April 13, 2009, 80/20 Thinking made a public statement [10] announcing that as of August 2009 it would no longer provide training or advisory services to clients in a commercial capacity and that instead, it would convert the company mandate to the research and development of privacy technologies worldwide. This was heavily covered in the UK and Global media as it followed the “Google War” as reported in the Guardian and other papers [11]

Privacy International has long been a vocal critic of some practices of the US search company Google. Public hostility between the two organizations came to a head following Privacy International’s legal action against the Google Street View product. Google asserted that Privacy International and its director were “far from impartial”.[12] Following a significant amount of publicity about this claim[13][14] 80/20 Thinking’s directors then issued a statement explaining that the company had taken the decision to cut all commercial consulting relations to avoid such future claims of conflict of interest with Privacy International.


  1. ^ Mr Simon Davies (2009-11-30). "Mr Simon Davies". Lse.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  2. ^ Dr Gus Hosein. "Dr Gus Hosein". Lse.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  3. ^ "Technology | Phorm: Your questions answered". BBC News. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  4. ^ "/ Media - Why web privacy's arch-enemies are trying out a truce". Ft.com. 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  5. ^ "/ Media - Why web privacy's arch-enemies are trying out a truce". Ft.com. 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  6. ^ "80/20 Thinking | Association for Progressive Communications". Apc.org. 2004-09-30. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  7. ^ "Article: The spy in your refrigerator... | AccessMyLibrary - Promoting library advocacy". AccessMyLibrary. 2001-03-01. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  8. ^ Arthur, Charles (2008-03-20). "Simon Davies (of Privacy International, and 80/20 Thinking) on Phorm | Technology | guardian.co.uk". London: Blogs.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  9. ^ "Events". 8020thinking.com. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  10. ^ "80/20 announces changes in company focus". 8020thinking.com. 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  11. ^ Kiss, Jemima (2009-03-25). "Google and Privacy International at war over claims of dirty PR tricks and Microsoft bias | Media | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  12. ^ Rosalie Marshall. "Privacy International splits off consultancy arm - V3.co.uk - formerly". Vnunet.com. Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  13. ^ "/ Technology - 80/20 takes the moral high ground, not the money". Ft.com. 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  14. ^ "Technology | Privacy firm drops advisory work". BBC News. 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 

External links[edit]