An individual database of personal information, owned and maintained by the user, would take personal data out of the hands of third parties.

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At any given moment, vast amounts of personal data are being collected and stored across innumerable application databases. This data is owned and distributed by third parties, often without the user’s knowledge. The isolation of these third parties creates inconsistency in the way we as developers acquire information, frantically searching for the information we need using non-standardized APIs that may or may not be well documented.

What if we had an open standard for individually-owned databases of personal data?

An individual database of personal information, owned and maintained by the user, would take personal data out of the hands of third parties and:

  1. Provide third parties with a single point of access to all user data
  2. Give users authority over the veracity of their own data and its availability to third parties

An easier way to tailor experiences

In the same way that an individual’s name holds their identity, individual databases hold a map of the individual’s life. By linking personal databases we’re able to reliably personalize services.

A shopper could be prompted on their phone for access to their personal database, for information such as sizes and shopping history. The shopping experience of the store could be tailored to the shopper. Imagine the experience your grocery store could offer if they knew exactly what your shopping list looked like.

Advertisers would be able to offer special promotions to all those who are part of their target audience in exchange for basic information such as an email address, effectively creating much more reliable lists for marketing efforts.

The death of one social site and the rise of another is cause for large migrations of users. If all user data, such as bios, interests, microblogs, and social relationships are carried over, users may not need to experience joining a new site and filling out a barren profile.

The possible applications are simply endless. Excited? Good!

The state of the federated web

Many have tried to tackle this problem but none have reached a wide audience. Notable efforts like openId and Diaspora are among the few to make an impact, but we're still far from achieving the type of influence required to drive a fundamental shift in the way we handle personal data. Recently, Mozilla took to its own efforts to try and solve this with Persona. Unless the information giants who profit tremendously from keeping our data jump in and help, nothing will change.

Let's solve this!

There are a lot of challenges that arise when thinking about how we could make this a reality. For example:

  1. How do we get data giants like Google or Facebook on board?
  2. How do we store a person's global or application specific data?
  3. How does an individual safely share their data with an application?
  4. How can we protect our privacy and retain the ability to revoke access to our data at any time?

There's a lot to be gained by finally standardizing and centralizing the data that we care about. Personal databases would take data away from the scattered silos of one application or another and give it back to the individuals who own it. This would allow us to carry our personal data with us, sharing it with whom you chose, and making it easier to receive personally tailored experiences.

The conversation about the Federated Social Web is ongoing, why not join in and voice your ideas?