emergent by design, April 11, 2011
by Venessa Miemis
As we become more comfortable with sharing ourselves on the ‘social web,’ we’re revealing a lot of valuable information about our interests, preferences and social connections, and it’s strewn across the web in many different 3rd party silos. One slice of me may be at home on Facebook, another segment of relationships and topics I follow are on Twitter, my online buying habits are known by Amazon and eBay, and a range of companies unknown to me are tracking the ‘digital exhaust’ I leave as I visit websites and travel around the web. There is a growing recognition of the value of all this data to assist us in decision-making, and a concern about who owns it currrently and what’s being done with it.
According to a recent W3C report, there are at least 4 main issues that arise when our data is trapped in 3rd party walled gardens:
1. Portability – The option of taking my personal information and social connections with me across any platform or marketplace is unavailable to me, so I’m forced to reenter and duplicate my data over and over again on different websites.
2. Identity – Instead of having a federated identity that is secure and interoperable across any website, I have an overwhelming (and growing) amount of usernames, passwords and accounts, making my online identity fractured and fragmented.
3. Linkability – People may be mentioning me or sharing photos of me on networks in which I am not a member, making that information invisible to me.
4. Privacy – Once I upload or add content to a site, I have no way of controlling the context of how it’s shared or creating permissions for what can be done with it.
In light of these concerns, I’ve been exploring the emerging tools and solutions for personal data ownership, unified online identity, and a federated social web that puts the user at the center of their online experience.
One of the recurring themes I’ve seen is the call for “personal data stores” or “personal data lockers.” This is the idea of a database that would store all of your personal information. The range of its functionality varies, but here is a comprehensive overview of what it could entail (from Mydex site):
- Data Storage – a single access point for my information that is currently scattered
- Data Management – a toolset for analyzing and understanding what my data means
- Data Sharing – the ability to choose how to share my information and with whom
- Data Collection – the ability to track my purchases, preferences, and activities
- Verifications – the ability to authenticate sensitive information generated by 3rd parties
- Identity Assurance – the ability to prove I am who I say I am
- Privacy Management – my info has a privacy setting determined by me, not organizations
- Manage Permissions – deciding the communication channels between me & my contacts
- Express Interests & Intentions – the ability to announce what I want to buy, do or access
- Plan & Implement Projects – a life management system for how I use my info over time
Below is a list I’ve been assembling of startups, open source projects, organizations, and standards that are defining what this next stage of the web will look like, where individuals are empowered by the ownership and understanding of their data and ability to verify identity. I’ve done my best to organize these, but am open for suggestions of how to arrange the list more usefully. And as always, if I’ve missed some vital information, please add to the comments section and I’ll keep the post updated.