Making sense of our digital lives – it’s time for protocols around personal data

–– 11 May 2021

Back in 1799, French soldiers in Napoleon’s army of Egypt discovered the key to a lost world in the form of a large black rock, weighing almost 800 kilos. 

What made this rock special was its ability to translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs into Greek, Latin and then into modern languages. 

The term ‘Rosetta Stone‘ is now used as shorthand for the essential clue to a new field of knowledge, and the rock itself is the number one object people want to see in the British Museum.


What does this have to do with our data? 

Right now, our data is flying around between devices, clouds and companies who make use of, and money from it in one way or another. They try to keep it secure, but we don’t have visibility until we ask for it, or it gets into the wrong hands and is used to cheat or harm us. 

GDPR and other regulations have the aim of freeing up data and giving people rights, and it was Tapmydata’s founding mission to build the tools for them to request, own and benefit from that data. 

Back in 2018, we launched our first app which did all this on your mobile, and since then people made over 20,000 requests from over 600 different companies. 

We found there was a huge variety in what people got back. As we know, some companies have yet to get with the program and didn’t respond with any data, others sent a few data points like username, account details and basic history. Others sent a whole dump of all the info held on the person requesting their data, call recordings and even video in the case of CCTV. 

Of course, we can’t snoop any of this data because of Privacy by Design, but our users shared their stories of what they got back and how companies responded in terms of their ‘data customer service’. 

We provide the means to request, plus a secure platform for all parties to share data, with the blockchain keeping score and our own star ranking system for users to rate companies. 

What’s missing is a common framework; a Rosetta Stone so we always get back the same info points which we can structure, capture and sell in the New Data Economy. 


Bringing structure to chaos – a New Protocol is needed 

Currently when it comes to our data in the Web2 world it’s a mess both in terms of accuracy and security; companies sending us data we don’t need along with what we asked for, and repeatedly asking us for ID along the way.  

But in the decentralized world of the blockchain, all this is managed by the protocol.

Cryptocurrency protocols allow users to manage their data. They allow individuals to create an account – or a wallet – on a protocol that can be used to pay for services and make transactions on other websites.

The security and unique identity of these applications is, at its foundational level, in the protocol. The protocol powers the applications above it while also providing security. This means you own your unique data, and have more powerful and secure access to a variety of digital goods and services.

This kind of structure is needed for all our data which is currently ‘out there’, and growing at a rate of 90% each year. 

Governments and regulators in Europe and the US have accepted this and are starting to force change from companies in general, and ‘gatekeepers’ of data like Facebook and Google to provide open API’s to the data they hold. 

Tapmydata already has the structure for people to regain control of their data, and with our move to open source tech we’ll provide tools for developers and data unions to build their own bridges. But what can we do to improve the quality and predictability of what we get back?


Together, we’re stronger – the DPPA 

If we’re going to realise the value of our data, then commonly-accepted standards for what is released by companies to individuals, how it’s structured, formatted and transmitted are essential. 

This makes chaotic data machine-readable and ready for exchange, as defined by the Open Data Handbook: ‘A file format structured so that software applications can easily identify, recognise and extract specific data, including individual statements of fact, and their internal structure.’

Together with exciting Web3 technologies like NFT’s, and the public blockchain as a statement of record for transactions, this forms the logic layer and building blocks for smart contracts to handle millions of data ‘deals’, controlled by individuals – it’s something our friends at Streamr call ‘Data Free Trade’. 

Earlier this week, organisations from the privacy, blockchain and Adtech sectors got together for the first time to define universal standards of data usage, portability and privacy as the Data Privacy Protocol Alliance (DPPA), of which Tapmydata is a founding member. 

Tapmydata and our partners have moved the debate on personal data from compliance to real control, and the existing data trade based on silos and FIAT payments is now moving in our direction and embracing these technologies.    

The DPPA is in a unique position to harness this moment of change and architect a forward-facing solution. By leveraging the collective consensus capabilities of blockchain technology and decentralized governance mechanisms, we can solve the critical issues of privacy and data control for individuals, data providers and data consumers alike.  
You can watch a recording of the first meeting here.

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