The following is from Digita’s “Solid in Short” series.
Episode 2. Data You Own and Data About You.
"The proposition of the Own Your Data Movement is not that you should own all data that is stored about you.
Solid was originally conceived to replace social networks like Facebook and not so much to be used by companies or governments to give their customers or citizens control over their data and transparency about what their data was used for.
And the personal data which is stored on social networks like Facebook are of a completely different kind than the one that are stored by companies or governments. Indeed, while it is only natural that you yourself can update or delete your information at Facebook, it is of course unthinkable that you simply have write access to your data at your bank or your government.
According to personal information management theory, this is because social networks store data of you like your likes, your photos, your friends and your messages while companies or governments store data about you. The theory says that its only fair to have ownership over the first kind but not over the second.
Why is it important to distinguish between data you own versus data about you? Well, its about expectations. We’ve noticed that companies are often hesitant to participate in a Solid ecosystem or a personal data web because they think it will lead to a situation in which their customers have full data ownership and can thus do anything (what) they want with their data.
It is only when our expectations about data ownership are in line with this distinction that companies will participate in a personal data web and hence give Solid a proper chance to succeed."
There is a big question of who gets to decide what is data that we own and what is data about us, that we presumably don’t own.
This ground should not be given up to companies or governments because they are “hesitant”.
For every piece of data, it should be proven why individual persons should not be in control, before it is conceded that the data is not owned by the person. Otherwise control over everything in the gray area and even beyond will be given up.
In fact, a person should be able to claim anything… that they are 10 feet tall, have a trillion dollars, whatever. That is their data.
Whether it is verifiable is another story. Companies and governments should rely on verifiable data but that doesn’t mean that the verified data is theirs to keep, unless they are the verifier, which the person or customer has in some form to agree to. Your bank may be the verifier of your account balance, but they are not the verifier of your address.
The power that a company or a government has over your data should be as narrowly defined as possible, and even then should only be granted either by your written permission or required by laws subject to democratic controls.