How can we put the principles of the manifesto into practice? In the fourth episode of a series, Tom Demeyer, CTO at Waag Society, explains how the European project DECODE interprets the principle of ‘legitimate and monitored’.
‘Legitimate and monitored’ is included as one of the principles in the manifesto to give citizens and users control over the design of their digital city. The government, civil society organizations and companies facilitate this. They monitor development and keep an eye on its societal consequences.
The DECODE project aims to put this value into practice by designing a decentralized digital infrastructure that will make it possible to manage your personal data and identity. If it is up to the researchers, everyone will soon have an effectively secured app on their phone that manage access and use of their data. DECODE stands for DEcentralised Citizen-owned Data Ecosystems.
Avatar of your digital persona
Tom Demeyer coauthored the white paper for this European research project and is primarily occupied with creating the architecture for that project. “We hardly have any control over our digital identity, yet ninety percent of our current interaction with society has become digital,” he explains regarding the initiative. “The problem is that our digital identity is shaped by companies such as Facebook, the systems operated by the government, and the systems at your work. In essence, you are an avatar of your digital persona and cannot influence it.”
DECODE is not just about data privacy, but also about being able to make our own decisions about who we want to share our data with. Over the next eighteen months, there will be four pilots: two in Barcelona and two in Amsterdam. The pilot projects will not only test the technology, but will also be used to demonstrate the social value of giving citizens control over their own data.
In Amsterdam, the benefits of using DECODE for the AirBnB registry are being investigated in close collaboration with the municipality. In this pilot, DECODE would allow people to list their holiday rentals with a verified identity, without having to save any personal data. Another pilot in Amsterdam involves a collaboration with Gebiedonline, a social neighborhood platform where people and groups can organize activities, share news and more. Maintaining a keen focus on privacy and data granularity, DECODE can test how citizens can determine what information they share, down to the tiniest details. Demeyer: “We are setting up everything in such a way that, even when the subsidy runs out at some point, there will be a solid achievement that the app users can maintain themselves.”
Technology is not the biggest challenge. “Although it is incredibly complex, it does seem feasible, because we are working with highly talented people. The biggest challenge is convincing people and service providers that they should be using this, and convincing companies and institutions that they can data without collecting it.”