Data Point

By Mark Nuyens
4 min. read🔍 Analysis

Perhaps we could consider creating a digital vault where our personal information is securely stored, and companies can access it only upon our request. This would essentially turn the tables and we would have greater control over our data.

The collection and use of personal data has been a topic of growing concern in recent years. From the ubiquitous cookie popups to more comprehensive laws designed to protect user privacy, it has become clear that individuals are increasingly valuing their personal information.

Recent changes, such as the requirement for companies like LinkedIn and Google to provide users with the option to share data only for specific purposes, have highlighted how the business models of these companies rely on the aggregation of personal data to create detailed profiles of individuals. This information is then shared with advertisers, who can use it to target ads more effectively.

However, it appears a growing movement is underway to provide users with more control over their personal data. This includes not only the ability to restrict data sharing, but also the ability to store and manage their own data in a secure and standardized way.

I envision a future where users have complete control over their personal information, not just in terms of what services may use it, but also where it is stored and how it is used. This would involve the creation of a "personal vault" where users can store all of their personal data, published content, purchase history, etc.

Users would have the ability to selectively grant access to specific companies and data points, ensuring that their data is used only for authorized purposes. Companies would be required to request permission before accessing data, and users would have the ability to revoke access at any time.

This approach would essentially turn the tables and offer numerous benefits, including:

  • Enhanced control over personal data: Users would have complete control over who can access their data and for what purposes.
  • Reduced security risks: Breaches would become far less common, as companies would no longer need to store personal data themselves.
  • Peace of mind for companies: Companies would no longer have to worry about the liability associated with storing personal data.
  • Opportunities for value exchange: Users could "sell" their data for discounts or other benefits, potentially changing the way value is exchanged online.

From a technical standpoint, the implementation of such a system would require layered controls and several abstraction layers to serve users with varying levels of technical expertise. Meanwhile, existing digital authentication systems (e.g. DigiD or ItsMe) could be connected, or run in parallel to this framework.

One potential concern is the sharing of personal data with the government. However, in Europe, a decentralized approach could be adopted, using the latest security standards and maintained by top companies using European funds. Laws would prevent government overreach, and the system would actually reduce the risk of data breaches by bad actors.

Standardizing personalized data storage is a complex but necessary step towards empowering users with control over their personal information. While there are technical and practical challenges to overcome, the benefits of such a system far outweigh the drawbacks. By creating a secure and user-centric framework, we can enable individuals to manage their data in a way that protects their privacy while still allowing companies responsible access to it.

As I've written before, this approach would suggest regulating technology from the bottom up, through the creation of foundational solutions using widely adopted standards and best practices. This would allow companies to build their products and services on top of those frameworks, allowing for "innovation through standardization" in the long run.