How does the web look if everyone owned their own data?

joshualjohnson profile image Joshua Johnson ・1 min read

Speaking in general, what happens if we move the database to people's homes instead of in the cloud. Imagine a world where clients would connect to your home database. What does the web look like for you now?


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I have a sort of struggle to really understand what personal data is.

Is something I know about you your data or mine?

Like if I have an address book, is that my data because it's my book or your data because it's your address?

This is a deep rabbit hole, I need help climbing out!


That you have a link to an address book entry is your data, the address info itself, and the information that that link resolves to my address book entry, is mine. You would have a list of anonymous links which would recover the data from the right places to create your address book entries.

The real question is, whose data is the fact that you have permission to access my address book entry? Because permissions data about the entry would be mine, but the fact that those permissions concern you make it yours...

And when someone accesses my address book entry, the fact that someone accessed it would be information about my personal information, whereas the fact that it was you who accessed it is information about you.

I guess it would be possible to have a key that means we both together can link up that log entry and see that it was you who accessed my entry. (Like matching an IP address to a person, but if the IP address was just a globally unique random ID.)

If that sort of thing were mandated, you wouldn't be able to de-anonymise any of that data without the other party's consent or at least without their stored data, which would make security and law enforcement evidence gathering of this type a trickier business.


Habits is personal and can be used against you if you don’t know about them. That’s how as an online marketer you create a money machine.


Owning your data does not necessarily mean owning the location where it is stored. It could very well be on a cloud provider, but the difference is that when I own it, I get to control its use. Whereas when you put something on Facebook, you cannot control how they use it internally. At best, you can control which other Facebook users see it.

I really think the conversation should be about: what is the successor to email? Email allows for direct sharing and is federated (lots of different providers that can talk to each other). But it has no efficient way of passively sharing content. This was attempted with RSS, for example, but it requires too many external tools to setup to be an effective user-to-user sharing method.


I like you comment but the data location is very important. Most countries outside the US would argue that data that lives on a server in their country belongs to them.


How do I see my friend's pictures on Facebook when their computer is offline?


Let’s just say it’s a perfect always on world.


Data sources must be treated as ephemeral. Social media entries live on servers that can be edited by the owner, so while they're safe from others, they can be edited by their owners and so aren't reliably static. Illegal data miners and archivers hoover up people's data to be fed to spam engines.

Most middle-class-and-up people have a mostly-always-on home hub that holds their data -- but since remote backups are impossible under this regime, sometimes people lose everything. (If you don't impose this, you end up with a cloud of data hubs which is halfway between this and now?)

Email, tax records, medical data, credit card receipts, location data; everything's on there, or for the more security conscious, secondary modules exist that can be better protected behind a home firewall (or in a fire-proof safe), or switched off when not needed. (Maybe the higher-quality ones offer more security, sturdier casing, and water-and-fire-proofing.)

Some authentication can be more secure and a little more like OAuth2 crossed with a current mobile OS permission request in appearance, since your device that stores the data can itself approve access to the data it holds.


At the end of the day when you sign in through Facebook and they allow you to store your life on their servers. Do you really own that? It seems like you would be forced to go along with the rules they provide including the fact that you have to give them permission to mine your data.


Please note that the post above is a statement of I think the world could be under the original poster's proposed situation. In this paradigm, I think Facebook would have to ship the ad engine to you, which would then mine your data on your machine and serve up the relevant ads.

Whether it would be allowed to download only the ads relevant to you or all current ads is another question, since those requests could then constitute personal data? I'm not sure.


Although not necessarily required to be run at "people's homes" the Solid project, lead by Tim Berners-Lee (the founder of the web), aims to put personal data back in the hands of the users. He has spoken about it and the subject of your question on various occasions. Most prominently in his recent ACM Turing Award lecture.


Nice! Thanks for sharing! I'm aware of this project but still think the concept can be better.


Can you narrow your scope? What data are you referring to? I have lots of opinions on this for the popcorn eating thread watchers. I just need to know where to start.


A hub that allows you to share your data. All clients come to you and ask permission. Stored right at your house.


I'm going to get my mask now.

Getting my mask


Loved usenet. It’s time to bring those days back. 😁


Both still exist. The Usenet mostly relies on servers though.