Concerned About Privacy? Store Your Sensitive Info in a Data Pod, Says Tim Berners-Lee

Do you want to take control of your personal data and keep it away from tech giants?

A startup called Inrupt—the brainchild of World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee—launched the Enterprise Solid Server this week. It lets users store their data in “pods,” which can then be accessed by apps and third parties only when the user allows it.

“The web was always meant to be a platform for creativity, collaboration, and free invention—but that’s not what we are seeing today. Today, business transformation is hampered by different parts of one’s life being managed by different silos, each of which looks after one vertical slice of life, but where the users and teams can’t get the insight from connecting that data,” Berners-Lee said in a statement. “Meanwhile, that data is exploited by the silo in question, leading to increasing, very reasonable, public skepticism about how personal data is being misused. That in turn has led to increasingly complex data regulations. 

“There had to be a better way. The Solid architecture provides that better way.”

Early adopters include the BBC, NatWest Bank, the UK’s National Health Service, and the Flanders Government.

How does it work? In the case of NatWest Bank, Solid could assist with tasks like changing your name after getting married or registering a new business. “Since all the apps write data to the user’s NatWest Pod, changes only need to be made once. And they could even receive new offers based on their newly recorded ‘life moment’— a NatWest joint bank account offer prompted by their marriage, for example. All the while, the user’s data stayed within their Pod, meaning they never lost control over who could access it,” Solid said last month.

The Flanders Government, meanwhile, is building a “My Citizen Profile” on Solid, where “every citizen will be given a Secure Data Store, which we call a Solid Pod, to serve as the home for their personal data, with the ability to determine who has access to data within it and when,” Berners-Lee says.

“Ultimately, this new foundation of trust and cooperation will lead to entirely new business models that actually benefit users as well,” he says.

November 10, 2020
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