10 Initiatives That Help You Take Back Control Over Your Online Data
by zeynep | 28 Sep, 2017
Most online platforms have a business model, and every business model has something in common: surveillance. The current stage of the Internet reveals that users are more than willing to share their personal data. It is not a top-notch government secret that people are constantly being monitored, and that their data is used by third parties for a variety of ends.
However, knowing—in this so-called information age—is not enough to grasp the urgency and sensitivity of the issues surrounding privacy. It seems as if the excessive use of the word privacy in recent years may have obscured its actual meaning. Etymology provides some guidance here. Privacy simply means “state of freedom from intrusion”. This freedom seems distant and unobtainable considering recent data breaches, but there is a growing interest in taking action against intrusion.
On a legal front, EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been approved and will be enforced on 25 May 2018. This is a big step to regulate the data market throughout Europe, and empower users by giving them more responsibility and control over what data they share. Although there are arguments around GDPR regarding its effect on businesses and user experience, an increasing number of data privacy initiatives are calling for an analysis to understand what types of solutions can be offered. We made a list of 10 initiatives which promise bold solutions and innovative ways to use online platforms in the coming age of GDPR.
“We help you regain control over your personal data, so you can use it however you wish. We make it easy to understand your rights, offer templates, and contact companies on your behalf.”
PersonalData helps users demand their data from platforms—Tinder, Facebook, Uber—so that they can understand what kind of effects they create through personal data. It is a good attempt to help users to realize the huge amount of information the platforms know about them, and encourage them to make sense of their personal data.
“Liberate the true value of personal data by using this in trusted ways that directly benefit people.”
Smart Consent develops apps and offers a decentralised data exchange protocol for platform developers. They underline the fact that consent does not have to be given without careful thinking, and provide developers with digital resources to build applications with user consent in mind.
“We are on our way to change the Internet forever
Basta. Stop. Schluss. The time has come for a new Internet. For an Internet in which you decide which information you share. Who with and for how long. You’re the boss!
Because we believe that people want to share. So too on the Web. But also that digital property, such as photos, contact, health and medical information are your own. And should stay that way.
A new kind of Internet. Together we can achieve it.”
Schluss is a recently developed initiative with ambitious declarations. Its emphasis on data as “digital property” implies the urgent need to take control over personal data. When users connect to any website through Schluss, they still share data, but they can prevent others from using those data without their permission. This way, users have the right to delete their data completely, or expand it in a secure way. One of the most exciting features of Schluss is that they want to go completely open source to further empower users.
“Get your data, see how powerful it is, and control how you share it on your terms.”
Digime operates in three steps: get it, see it, share it. Digime first gathers all the data that the user wants from social media, health or finance related websites. Then, it helps users to see their online behavior in connection with the impacts their data create. Lastly, Digime offers an interesting idea to give consent through their “Consent Contract”, in which third parties are required to make an offer in exchange for the particular data they want to access. The emphasis made by Schluss is clear here as well: data is private property that requires much more self-control and protection.
“Our vision is to create a place for everyone on the planet to get equity and value in exchange for what they share. To make this possible we want to create a sovereign place where people will realise the accumulation of every day data as a growing and valuable asset, for themselves and for their children.”
Meeco is an attempt to create a secure marketplace where individuals can store all of their personal data.. Their “Life Management Platform” allows users to share which data they want with whichever third parties they trust. This way, users do not have to answer a number of questions for every single platform, but they can manage everything from a single point.
“Our goal is to provide you with the best, easiest to use and most secure service so that your data is not used by third parties unless you decide it is. We all have a life and a digital life. Cozy gathers them. In your Cozy, you have all your personal data: pictures, health, bank, holidays, accessible only by you.”
Similar to Meeco, CozyCloud offers a cloud service where users can store all of their personal data and share it with chosen third parties as they wish. In addition, it is an open source platform that can be improved by anyone. CozyCloud also offers tools like contact management, calendars and notebooks.
“DECODE provides tools that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share it for the public good.”
Decode is a European Commission funded project that offers tools that will be tested through multiple pilot projects. The aim is to intervene in three areas where data privacy is highly urgent: Internet of Things, Sharing Economy, and Open Democracy. According to the project’s website, Decode’s tools will “combine blockchain technology with attribute-based cryptography to give the data owner control of how their data is accessed and used”. The pilots will take place in Amsterdam and Barcelona between 2017 and 2019..
“We provide tools and support for businesses, helping them to provide consumers with personal services that handle data responsibly.”
As the name suggests, the initiative does not focus on only one side of the data market; rather, it supports a coalition between users and businesses. Their aim is to increase the responsibility of users without discouraging them to share their data by offering compliance support and frameworks for data-driven businesses and organizations. The case studies on Coelition’s website provide an overview of their existing and hypothetical services.
“Based and designed in Europe, Qwant is the first search engine which protects its users freedoms and ensures that the digital ecosystem remains healthy. Our keywords: privacy and neutrality.”
Qwant is a search engine without commercial, political or moral interests. Through Qwant, users can search freely without being surveilled and targeted by ads. Qwant provides rights to be forgotten, to access, to oppose, to rectify and to suppress incomplete and inaccurate information. It is an exciting attempt to free users from monopolizing ambitions of search engines that do not consider data privacy as a priority at all.
“As MIDATA members, citizens can visualize and analyze their personal data. They can actively contribute to medical research and to clinical trials by providing access to sets of their personal data across cooperatives”
MIDATA is focused on the goal of giving people control over their personal health data. It allows users to centralize their health related information in a secure place, and give them a chance to decide which data they want to share for contributing to medical research. Considering that highly regulated health data are still vulnerable to breaches, MIDATA offers a reliable concept for getting control and making sense of health data.