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A Huge Bunch of People Work on Alternative Data Governance Models

There is a growing number of people, organisations and companies around the world working to make up an ecosystem that generates alternative futures to big tech companies’ massive accumulation of data and unilateral control. The US-based non-profit organisation, Mozilla, who’s behind one of the services, the Firefox browser, is looking into the how’s and the who’s in this massive non-coordinated effort to create a fair data exchange and internet experience.  

Mozilla’s new ‘Data Futures Lab’ shows that builders (those creating new technologies) and supporting entities (their allies) not only need stronger language to define their own work, but also need to connect and form partnerships, experiment together and cooperate to rebalance the power towards individual agency, collective benefit, and data rights.

The project defined 7 approaches to new data governances.

  1. Data Cooperatives. Collaborative pooling of data by individuals or organizations for the economic, social, or cultural benefit of the group. One example is Driver’s Seat, a cooperative of on-demand drivers who gather their own combined driving data in an app to gain insights that are usually kept secret by employers like Uber. When Driver’s Seat sells mobility data to city agencies they share profits with drivers.
  2. Data Commons. In a data commons, data is pooled and shared as a common resource. This approach can address power imbalances by democratizing access to and availability of data. Wikipedia and Openstreet Map are examples.
  3. Data Collaboratives. With data collaboratives, the usual idea is to take data that is proprietary or siloed and make it available to inform research or policy. An example is Global Fishing Watch, who combines satellite vessel tracking data from six countries to create an online map that tracks fishing activity for better ocean management.
  4. Data Trusts. If an inividual or a group hands over their data to a trustee, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to act according to predefined terms and conditions and never in their own self interest. The ODI in the UK did three pilots on data trusts.
  5. Data Fiduciary is an intermediary between individuals and data collectors and can take many forms. An example, according to Mozilla, is Solid or (I call them ‘personal data stores’)
  6. Indigenous Data Sovereignty is about shifting access and control over data away from governments and other institutions and directly to Indigenous Peoples
  7. A Data Marketplace is an approach that enables consumers to sell or trade their personal data for services or other benefits. One example is The Streamr.

To make the new data governance initiatives more visible, Mozilla has built and updated database of builders and a database of supporting entities where is part of the latter.

Read much more here
Download the full report here