StephenL: Have you met any of the “POD people” helping Tim Berners Lee to create his vision for a decentralized Web? Is his Solid framework a Quixotic quest?
@paulduplantis I had a chance to meet Tim Berners Lee very briefly at a Douglas Engelbart Symposium and have exchanged emails with Inrupt’s Chief of Staff, Kelly O’Brien and CEO, John Bruce where Mr. Berners Lee is the CIO. Inrupt is the company developing the technology behind Solid PODS. I emailed John and Kelly an article I had written on the concept of using Solid PODS as a way to allow users to securely store personal data on the web to tune ads to their personal interests wherever they would see ads. I did receive a “Very Interesting” from John which I will take. Kelly recommended I follow their development team on Github to provide insight into what they are building. After following their team for the last 6 months I can say I do believe they are truly working on the next version of the web. A decentralized web where the user is in control of their own experiences.
As far as, is the solid framework a quixotic quest, I say not at all. Yes, they have grand ideals on decentralizing the web but everything I see on the back end of what their developers are working on is the practical use of technologies to put the user back in control of how they manage their information on the web. Now, will it be an easy road to adoption? Absolutely not as there is going to be an enormous amount of pressure to keep things the way they are from the companies who hold the keys to monetizing user experiences.
I’ve become interested in the potential of data science and Big Data for social good, such as finding new solutions to combat climate change. However, in Tim Berners-Lee’s framework of “Personal Online Data Stores,” researchers would need to obtain permission from every individual who owned critical data. Do you think there is a place within PODS for “eminent domain” to combat an existential threat, or are personal privacy rights absolute?
I don't think the complexities of data rights should stop us from establishing some type of framework to allow users to openly engage in a marketplace of experiences without fear of having our own experiences being compromised by the governments and businesses we are supposed to trust.
Currently, we do not hold the keys to the doors of these experiences. The idea behind PODS or Personal Online Data Stores is that we keep the experiences we create and consume behind our door and if somebody comes knocking we feel we can trust we open the door and allow them access to specifically what they are looking for. Currently, providers are the only ones holding these keys whether we log in or not. And it is important to note Inrupt will not own or control user PODS.
I absolutely believe these provider controls need to change but until we are able to manage these permissions more fluidly so as not to interrupt the potential of the experiences, I don't see how this would scale. And without a proper framework in place how will legislators will be able to craft policy to enforce user data rights since how could they effectively create and enforce rules to protect the contents of a home when the concept of a home does not exist? I think this is an incredibly important debate to have as our data becomes more valuable to the market and at the very least the Solid Framework with Personal Online Data Stores is a potential solution worthy of consideration. Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges they face is creating a universal permission protocol that doesn't hamper the flow of information between users.
To your question of eminent domain within PODS, I don’t think our rights could ever be absolute as there are just too many variables to consider. I have a right to protect the ownership of my house unless I am running a drug ring out of it, don’t pay my property taxes, or upset my HOA.. But I do believe this is more about user data rights than data ownership. I read an interesting article (Why data ownership is the wrong approach to protecting privacy) on the importance of establishing data rights over data ownership and feel a focus on our digital rights might be a more favorable approach for the user. Facebook just added an ownership clause into their user agreement but this mean we trust Facebook or any other entity or government with our experiences for that matter?
So a better path forward in my humble opinion would be to create a universal framework to store and protect the experiences we create and consume while matching this with a legislative framework to penalize those who use these experiences without our expressed consent. You think putting a man on the moon was difficult!!!! But what if we are able to set boundaries with our data? To limit provider influence over what we create and consume. Considering the potential of new technologies on the horizon, I believe the sky's the limit.