In “Internet: who owns our data?” Cindy Cohn from the Electronic Frontier Foundation made the case that companies, and law makers should work together to ensure consumers are able to opt out of platforms and services whenever they want, taking their data with them. Cohn’s call for more consumer control was echoed by others at the conference, including the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who wants to enshrine the individual’s power over their own data in Europe’s new Digital Services Act. Clear legislation will be a good thing for businesses, since according to Cohn, ambiguous policy makes compliance challenging. In the meantime, Cohn counsels start-ups entering this territory to look for “ways that people can use your services in ways that really empower them…and offer them a better choice.”
Apps and tools that promise better consumer control of data are not new, but thus far, none of the challengers is causing Big Tech to lose any sleep. In 2021, one Swiss start-up may prove to be the game-changer. Inrupt was co-founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, known as the father of the world wide web, who has often spoken of his dismay at the ways in which his creation has been subverted. Berners-Lee and his co-founder John Bruce were at the Summit to discuss this year’s milestone launch of Inrupt’s enterprise-ready SOLID servers in their talk “Realizing the web’s potential.” SOLID’s privacy technology “puts people first,” said Berners-Lee, and empowers them to create their own data stores called Pods (personal online data stores) from which they can grant access to third parties at their own discretion.
Inrupt is already running trials with a host of organizations and businesses including the National Health Service (NHS), NatWest, the BBC and the government of Flanders. Bruce sees Inrupt as “part of a new era of inclusive capitalism” that will see that “everyone gets to participate in the creation of value.”
Are we on the edge of a new, more inclusive era for privacy? Even Big Tech now acknowledges that data ownership should be interrogated more closely. In a fireside chat titled “Facebook, elections and political speech,” head of global affairs Nick Clegg said it was “an ongoing and legitimate source of debate” and pondered whether it was possible to “do more with less data that you hold for a shorter period of time.” Watch this space.
Better content: the immersion revolution
2020 saw a surge in content consumption as life migrated to the screen, unlocking an exciting new era in immersive engagement across realities.
In the “Remixing Reality” session, Phil Libin, co-founder and CEO of All Turtles and mmhmm, discussed the “DJ-ification” of content and entertainment with music duo The Chainsmokers. Today, everyone from teachers to musicians to CEOS is remixing and blending live and recorded content to create truly unique and exciting performances. Libin’s start-up mmhmm, which was created and launched during lockdown, allows users to turn their video conferences into interactive and engaging performances with backgrounds, pop-up elements and the ability to manipulate images on the fly.