Vision & Principles for the Personal Data Ecosystem

This is an outline of a my Vision for Core Aspects of the Personal Data Ecosystem.

I along with others are working to catalyze, grow and launch this ecosystem – more posts will follow on that work.

Visions and Principles for the Personal Data Ecosystem

The future is at stake – without control over our own personal data, having a copy of all the digital bread crumbs we are leaving behind in the digital world, we leave ourselves to be tracked, and potentially manipulated by commercial interests without our knowledge.

This presents a vision for core aspects of the emerging interoperable, open standards based ecosystem of personal data services – rooted in the core functionality of a Personal Data Store – the vault/locker/services/broker where all an individuals data is collected and stored and managed.

Dignity of the Individual is Core
Human dignity must lie at the core of the Personal Data Ecosystem. People must be able to shape how they represent themselves in digital contexts. People need the freedom to shape how they present themselves and how the data they generate in their lives is collected and used.

Systems Must Respect Relationships
Relationships must be respected between people, between people and groups, and between groups and groups.  The Personal Data Ecosystem must respect that people and communities have different levels of publicness.  The relationships that people have with one another must be respected and the social context in which they are formed must be honored.

Remember the Greatness of Groups
Personal Data and control over it give people a core human dignity.  It also must be remembered that human social life and human identity is shaped by our participation and membership in groups. It is the core organizing form of our society. Fundamental functionality must enable people to organize in groups, and it must be abstracted from any particular service or domain space.

The Social Web is not Networked Individualism
People broadcasting what they do to their friends or followers does not make a social web; communities and groups do.

Protocols that Enable Broad Possibilities are Essential
Protocols matter deeply: they shape what is possible by their definition of use cases that are possible or not in a given protocol landscape.   To have a truly social and dynamic web, there is a role for protocols that are designed specifically for that purpose, not just to create web pages or send emails.

Open Standards for Data and Metadata are Essential
It is vital that the personal data store ecosystem be interoperable with open standards so people are free to choose which personal data services they wish to use.  Just like people are free to pick which bank to hold their money and provide services to them in the financial realm.

Defaults Must Work for Most People Most of the Time
All systems have defaults.  The paradox of choice is that more options can overwhelm people and they end up not considering the choices they have. Real people need to have input into the creation and ongoing development of systemic defaults.

Norms and Practices in the Personal Data Ecosystem Must be Backed up by Law
Emerging technologies need to have legal agreements and frameworks innovated to match their functionality.  The work on the legal framework for this ecosystem is as important as the protocols and code that make it go.

Business Opportunities Abound in this New Personal Data Ecosystem
The paradigm of user collection, control and management of the personal data they are creating implicitly and explicitly around the web is a huge opportunity for services and ways of doing business. Creativity is needed to think through these new possibilities.

Diversity is Key to the Success of the Personal Data Ecosystem
Large companies and nimble startups are all needed for the success of this emerging ecosystem.

I originally outlined these on August 12th just before the XDI Retreat that happened in Whistler, Canada.
The guys stopped by on their way to that event and I handed them this sheet of paper.

UPDATE: Phil Windley posted the following IIW principles for the Personal Data X (with X being, store, service, locker, bank, broker, vault, etc.) following IIW-East in DC. At that event we had a session on personal data X in each of the 8 conference session time slots. They are very complementary. Principles for PDX.


  1. says

    I just discovered the PDEC and am quite excited about it. As a veteran of nearly 30 years in the direct commerce business (currently focusing on order management and fulfillment systems), I am keenly aware of how cautious direct marketers were a generation of more ago with the use of consumer-based data, on which their livelihood depended. However, I am rather discouraged by the current eState of affairs. I have written a blog about this, which addressed the Do Not Track issue as raised by the FTC. I will do a follow-up on the PDEC as soon as I have digested the material here. This is exactly the kind of collaborative effort I called for in my blog post,but I think we need go much further. As I concluded in the posting, it all comes down to a question of leadership (and the vision that drives it!).

  2. says

    I’d have to check with you here. Which is not something I usually do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!


  1. What programming standards or protocols describe groups or collections of people?…

    This is not an area where standards have been prominent so far. Group concepts are seen as internal to a system or platform, and unlike individual identity, there has been little attempt to define standard exchange formats between platforms in any more…

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