The internet has become part of our daily life. Nevertheless, we often worry about the lack of transparency companies show when they collect our data. According to a recent study conducted by Flanders’ research center imec, 67% of Flanders’ citizens feel the same. Professor Ruben Verborgh (imec), affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working together with Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, on what they call an extension of the existing internet to safeguard data, a technology called Solid.
Modern-day companies built their own way of storing and collecting their users’ data. Tim Berners-Lee calls this ‘data silos’ where each company protects its data from others, giving them a competitive advantage. The alternative proposed by Verborgh and Berners-Lee is a decentralized way of storing data, a personal data pod. If, for example, you migrate to another service, your data pod will move along with you. In that way, you can keep control over your own data and decide what you share, and with whom.
How would this work in practice? If you switch to a new bank, for instance, your personal data moves with you. If you change streaming services, your listening history gets transferred. Or imagine you change your e-mail address. Since all data is stored decentralized, there’s no need to inform all apps and services that you use about the change. Every organization or application connected to your data pod will get notified instantly. Data pods are best seen as a standardized way of storing personal data, just like JPEG files are for pictures, or PDFs are for documents. As a result, the playing field between small and big developers becomes leveled, since everyone uses the same way of handling data.