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On data shadows and giving up control

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Bruce Schneier on what keeps me awake these days.

In the information age, we all have a data shadow.
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What happens to our data happens to ourselves.
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Who controls our data controls our lives.
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We need to take back our data.
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This is a tall order, and it will take years for us to get there. It’s easy to do nothing and let the market take over. But as we see with things like grocery store club cards and click-through privacy policies on websites, most people either don’t realize the extent their privacy is being violated or don’t have any real choice. And businesses, of course, are more than happy to collect, buy, and sell our most intimate information. But the long-term effects of this on society are toxic; we give up control of ourselves.

This is why I want the Mine! and why I have designed it as a place where you can reclaim your data, without abandoning the goodness of connectivity and benefits of the network. As I keep saying in my email signature: The network is always stronger than the node… but a network starts with a node.

The individual needs to be stronger, more in charge of their domain. I believe that will improve relationships and transactions with others as well as bring benefits to the whole network.

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5 Responses to “On data shadows and giving up control”


  1. Crosbie Fitch
    on May 21st, 2008
    @ 9:08 am

    The problem we have today is not that merchants collect and exchange personal data, but that there is so little market demand for merchants to demonstrate discretion and confidence – which would be helped if there was an easy means by which it could be demonstrated.

    Ultimately, it’s probably all just a market anyway, i.e. a market where the product is ‘your data’ and merchants compete to sell the best quality and most comprehensive sets thereof.

    You are effectively suggesting that the individual should enter this market, and outcompete the existing merchants, which shouldn’t be too difficult given the individual is an authoritative and complete source. However, that doesn’t mean the individual can remove some of their ‘product’ from the market. They can only control what they supply, and if they don’t supply, the market will step back in.

    I believe a better defence than outcompeting in the supply of one’s personal information, is to create a market in which virtual identities may operate. Thus the reputation and ‘personal’ information of a virtual identity remains associated with that virtual identity rather than its human operator.

    Merchants don’t necessarily want the personal information of human beings, just that of those identities with whom they do business.

    (In other words, go shopping with a burqa and an untied credit card.)

    Then as a double-whammy, virtual identities can also publish their complete and authoritative ‘personal’ information in order to retain control over it.

    There’ll then be a market for analysis and evidence that ties virtual identities together, but we’ll leave the solution to that for another day.


  2. Adriana
    on May 21st, 2008
    @ 10:02 am

    Crosbie, I don’t think that’s what I am saying at all. Maybe that’s what you see but I don’t recognise what I am trying to do in your words. Sorry.

    I’ll write more on the topic of data etc. And ultimately, time (and users) will tell whether the Mine! can help.


  3. Crosbie Fitch
    on May 21st, 2008
    @ 11:02 am

    Is the Mine! a means by which an individual can collect and control their statements about themselves or others, their intentions and interests, and make them available at a well known place, with discretion (according to who is granted permission to read them), such that they can be interrogated by others?


  4. Adriana
    on May 21st, 2008
    @ 11:12 am

    No, not really. :)


  5. Crosbie Fitch
    on May 21st, 2008
    @ 11:23 am

    Oh, well, that explains it then. :)

    I’ll have another go at trying to comprehend what the heck the Mine! is in due course.

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