What if we owned our own data?
by firstname.lastname@example.org in security on (#3R4)
It's been proposed before, but MIT takes it a step further and is fleshing out a system where users can take control of their own data. This would be a radical shift in how things work now.
In the latest issue of PLOS One, MIT researchers offer one possible answer. Their prototype system, openPDS â€” short for personal data store â€” stores data from your digital devices in a single location that you specify: It could be an encrypted server in the cloud, but it could also be a computer in a locked box under your desk. Any cellphone app, online service, or big-data research team that wants to use your data has to query your data store, which returns only as much information as is required.Interestingly, the system involves sharing code, not data. They outline a music recommendation service that would make a recommendation to you not by requesting access to your music store, but by sending you an algorithm your datastore would run and return. There's more work to do here, but it seems like a step up from the "everyone owns your data except you" model in which we're currently living.
Another cloud provider is file storage websites whom scan and analyze files that you upload to them. I admit that I haven't found a drop in replacement that can handle how easy it is to sync files between tablet/phones and your computer, but an alternative would be to just limit how much data that you actually need to have everywhere. Maybe a portable 2TB hard drive?
The last most concerning trend is to trust advertising agencies such as Google with all of your contact details. For the low price of $0, millions of people have voluntarily given this advertising agency access to not only all of their contacts, but who their favorites are (I'm not sure if call metadata is included). Governments have spent thousands of dollars to make sophisticated tools to extract phone books for cell phones without the person knowing, yet now everyone has voluntarily submitted their phone address book to an advertising agency.
Since cloud based tools have become so popular, it is starting a trend where instead of having a copy of a program that's under your control, you merely access the web-based interface of the program in which access can be denied at any time (Google Reader, Office 365, etc...). By making it cloud based publishers have eliminated threats to piracy and has made their dependent users even more dependent on them (you subscribe to a service, rather than purchase a copy of the software). I ultimately believe that cloud based things are slowing the development of better offline open source tools.