EU project aims to give people control over their online data

DECODE, a new, three-year European Commission-funded project has been launched to develop practical alternatives to how we manage our information on the internet.

By creating and testing new blockchain-based tools, the objective of DECODE – or ‘DEcentralised Citizen Owned Data Ecosystem’ – is to give individuals greater control over their data, helping them keep it private or share it for the public good as they see fit.

The premise of the project is that the main channels through which we use the internet have been monopolised by a handful of big businesses that do not always serve individuals and communities fairly. In turn, data which could benefit society is locked away in silos and individuals have limited control over it. The project will run four public pilots – two in Barcelona and two Amsterdam – to test the new tools and to demonstrate the wider social value that can come as a result of people sharing their data differently.

Eddie Copeland, director of Government Innovation at innovation foundation Nesta, said: “DECODE is an ambitious project to give citizens back control of their online data. The ongoing litany of data breaches, government surveillance controversies and the monopolisation of personal data by a small number of giant firms is no longer sustainable. We need a new way for people to consciously protect and share their data. The potential to do so is huge; not only can individuals feel greater trust in the services and devices they use; they will also be able to share their data to support the growth of new social ventures, improve the functioning of cities and participate more in open, online democratic processes.”

DECODE will be delivered by a consortium of multidisciplinary partners – including, the Institut Municipal d’Informatica de Barcelona, Eurecat and the University of Catalonia from Spain, Amsterdam City Council, Dyne and the Waag Society in the Netherlands, Politecnico di Torino/Nexa from Italy, CNRS from France, Arduino from Sweden, and innovation foundation Nesta, Thingful, ThoughtWorks and UCL from the UK.

The emerging research findings and source code of the DECODE tools, once developed, will be open and freely available on the project website: www.decodeproject.eu.

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