Databox a step towards users controlling their data to manage vendors

Fightback against internet giants’ stranglehold on personal data starts

The underlying philosophy underpinning all attempts to level the online playing field is a belief that an individual’s data belongs to him or herself and that no one should have access to it except on terms that are controlled by the data owner. The hunt is on, therefore, for technologies (software and/or hardware) that would make this both possible and be easy to use. An interesting idea of how to do that surfaced last week in a paper by computer scientists from Queen Mary University of London and Cambridge University.

The basic concept is a Databox, a piece of software that collects personal data and then manages how that information is made available to third parties. In essence, it’s “a networked service that collates personal information from all of your devices and can also make that data available to organisations that the owner allows”.

And although the Databox is conceived of as a virtual platform, in that it involves multiple devices and services, at least one instance of it will exist in a physical form, for example as a small box that also functions as a home hub.

Getting from here to a service that is usable by normal human beings will, no doubt, be a long and winding road. Among the problems to be solved are thorny issues of trust, security and user-friendliness. But, like Lanier and Searls, the Databox project researchers are on the right track. As the Chinese say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is it.


One stop shopping for the 3 letter agency snoops?

Seems like the data has already been handed over willingly by the public, Stuffing the rabbit back in the hat isn’t terribly easy to do.

The truth:

To get a cookie, people had to turn over personal data that could include their address, driver’s license number, phone number and mother’s maiden name.

More than half of the people allowed Puno to take their photographs. Just under half — or 162 people — gave what they said were the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. And about one-third — 117 people — allowed her to take their fingerprints. She examined people’s driver’s licenses to verify some of the information they provided.

Source: People Are Willing to Give Away Their Personal Data for a Cinnamon Cookie | Mashable

Additional material for mental masturbation:

From the article @habbypbeing quoted:

Lanier argued that by convincing users to give away valuable information about themselves in exchange for “free” services, firms such as Google and Facebook have accumulated colossal amounts of data (and corresponding amounts of wealth) at virtually no cost.

That’s because:
a) people value it at exactly that cost (no cost)
b) people count on the government to protect them, or - if that doesn’t work and still produces sufficient “public” outrage - to force the companies to give up their property rights (i.e. users’ data that users agreed to transfer to the provider). Governments encourage this behavior with their redistributionist, cleptocratic and lawless conduct, so why not - anything goes.

Most people would rather sell their data than spend $99 for a Databox with a 2TB HDD. That’s not going to change.

1 Like

@janitor I find your endless cataloging of “why X won’t work” irritating because it undermines the purpose of my posting links to relevant information and projects.

I don’t care very much whether Databox or whatever will work when I post.

Innovation is mostly about thinking up ideas that won’t work. Imagine all the thought experiments of someone like Einstein, Edison, Musk, Jobs etc!

Einstein said, it’s not that I’m smarter than other people, it’s that I stay with problems longer. Edison said something similar. And IMO your highlighting of flaws is a compulsive reaction that stifles creative thought. I’d love it if you could put that aside or keep it for discussions where it is helpful.

The purpose of this kind of “introducing ideas/projects” post from me, is to foster new ideas, creative discussion, encourage cross project thinking and potential sharing of ideas and collaboration. It isn’t necessarily because I think the idea/project highlighted is an answer in itself, and I am not looking for a list of why it isn’t going to work.

Please will you consider what I’m saying here, and think about the impact of your criticisms and whether or not they help. I’m of the opinion that looking for problems (something we both do readily), too much, too early, kills creativity, and creativity is what I’m aiming for! :slight_smile:

1 Like

It is amazing the number of business ideas coming out that are in the personal data economy. My concern is many of these companies just create a more readily available repository of personal data to be abused by the established order, control humans further and take us deeper into the dystopic nightmare that is unfolding behind the scenes with the windhover priciples and the like. I have been intermittently working on this app idea for more than 2 years and coming across MaidSafe that it can be done without the compromise of personal privacy and individual and collective freedom. I need to really prioritise this app I am planning and get it out for beta :slight_smile: @Anura_Bandara lets talk this weekend and get the ball rolling with more momentum. @whiteoutmashups I would like to link up with you over at sf pod and get you involved as well., if you’re keen?

Onespace. One place. For your digital self. Secure, private, yours.


To talk about your SAFE app idea?

Absolutely, any time!

Just send me a pm