Themenbild Newspaper

On May 20th, thanks to Maija Palmer, an interesting article on Ubiquitous Commons entitled “Conflict over data ownership lies ahead” was published on Financial Times.

The article is available at this link:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/2f8290b2-cc8f-11e4-b5a5-00144feab7de.html#axzz3bKEpEIEf

You can download a pdf version here.

[…] “But could a system be created that gave back some control to individuals? An international group of researchers led by Salvatore Iaconesi, a lecturer at the La Sapienza university in Rome, and Oriana Persico, a communication scientist, is trying to create a legal and technical toolkit that would allow people to do just that.

The concept, called Ubiquitous Commons (UC), would insert a layer between individuals and Facebook that specifies how a users’ details can be used. For example, when a user types an “I love kittens” post on Facebook and presses “send” the message would be intercepted by the UC platform and encrypted before it reaches Facebook. They would be asked to specify how their data might be used — perhaps for scientific purposes, but not commercial ones, for example.

The back end of the system would log the user’s instructions to a “blockchain” or electronic public ledger. The data could only be decrypted and accessed by organisations that fit the set criteria.

 

“There is a real inequality of power between individuals and companies when it comes to data,” says Mr Iaconesi. “When you configure your privacy policy on Facebook, not many people realise that you are configuring your privacy policy towards other people, not towards Facebook. They can see it all.

 

“UC would apply not just to social networks such as Facebook, but the whole internet of things — smart fridges and [activity monitoring devices].”

People would also be able to place controls over the personal physiological data that wearable devices might generate. You could allow your health data to be seen by a doctor, for example, but not by an employer or insurance company. If it were adopted, UC would change fundamentally the balance of power of data between consumers and companies.

 

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Last month the Ubiquitous Commons group was showing the technology to Italian farmers, who have become concerned that collection of crop data is being monopolised by large food groups such as Monsanto.

Previous attempts to create social media platforms that put users in control of their data have not taken off. The Diaspora project, created in 2009 as a Facebook alternative that put individuals in control of their information, and Ello, a social network set up in 2014 with a promise never to sell users’ data to advertisers or other third parties, have not gained ground against Facebook.

Mr Iaconesi says UC is not positioning itself as an ideological choice or anti-business. Its supporters are trying to gain wider backing for their project and EU officials have already been shown the technology as part of an awareness-raising campaign.

 

Mr Iaconesi says that Facebook has seemed to be open-minded about UC so far. “On a very low and informal level, we know a lot of their developers are interested in the project,” he says.”

 

 

 

May 27th, 2015

Posted In: Activism, Updates

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