Over the last couple of years concerns about privacy and control of personal data have increasingly moved from the fringes of the hacker community (e.g. Chaos Computer Club) to the mainstream, driven there by seemingly endless reports of ethically questionable treatment of personal data by (social media) companies, the introduction of increasingly powerful ‘smart’ devices that capable of deep intrusions into people’s private lives, and seemingly never ending reports of privacy invasive behaviour by spy agencies.
Beyond expressions of concern, however, what can people do about this, short of abandoning the use of social media and other internet based conveniences? One approach that was been proposed for rebalancing the levels of control over personal data is the use of Personal Data Stores.
Personal Data Stores, such as the Personal Containers that are part of the Dataware project here at HORIZON, proposed to give individuals control over the access and use of their personal data by keeping the personal data stored in a system that is under the control of the user instead of handing over the data to the media platform or service company. Within this framework, whenever a third-party wishes to access a person’s data they must submit a query to the individual’s data store and only after consent is given are they able to access the data.
Other projects, groups and companies involved in developing Personal Data Store systems include: the-Hub-of-All-Things (HaT), Mydex, the UK government-backed Midata initiative, and Qiy which is endorsed by the Dutch government and had a ‘Soft Launched’ of the Qiy Trust Framework today.
As stated on the Qiy website: “The Qiy Trust Framework focuses on the exchange of so called personal attributes (personal data) and is part of the development of the Qiy Scheme.”
“Schemes are a set of agreements encompassing all necessary topics needed to provide a satisfactory user experience toward all end-users. The set of agreements consists of a variety of topics including functionality, technical standards, security, legal obligations, and access criteria for new members and governance. Well-known examples for schemes in two sided market are cards (Visa, MasterCard), Internet (iCann), iDEAL (Currence) and GSM for mobile telephony.”
So, does this herald the beginning of a year in which people will truly take back much of the control over their data, equalizing the balance of power between platform users and platform owners? Or will 2015 be more of the same as 2014? After all, one of Nesta’s predictions at the beginning of last year was that: “2014 will be the year when citizens start to take control of their own data”. Then again, perhaps it was the year when the movement started. And perhaps 2015 will be the year when it truly makes an impact.
Best wishes for 2015 from the CaSMa team!