Social Web User's Bill of Rights

Last week I mentioned the Social Web User’s Bill of Rights that was drafted for the Data Sharing Summit last Friday and Saturday. When it was first posted, it included the phrase, “ownership”, as in “user’s should own their personal data”.

Mary Hodder, the entrepreneur behind Dabble.com, Paul Trevithick, and I were initially wary of using this term for two reasons:

  • “Ownership” is very tricky legal territory, not just in the U.S. but all over the world. Personally I believe the term “identity rights” and “identity rights agreements” is actually more appropriate (see more below).
  • Mary made the point that it’s really “co-ownership”, i.e., when users share data with sites, it’s for the benefit of both, and sites need to know they can use the data to provide the services they are giving the user.

However in a blog post today, Mary said that after conversations at the Data Sharing Summit, and then with others in the industry and Dabble advisors, she became convinced that the spirit of “ownership” is correct, and so she’s endorsing the Bill of Rights and adjusting the Dabble TOS (Terms of Service) to reflect this concept of user ownership of their data.

Good for her. I fully agree that the spirit is right, and so, with the caveats I expressed above, I’m on board too. So is Doc Searls in a post he just made.

Interestingly, the very last session at the Data Sharing Summit (in fact, after the closing circle – that’s how dedicated the attendees were) was on Identity Rights Agreements (IRAs), a Working Group formed at Identity Commons in the spring of 2006. The whole idea of IRAs is that users actually license their data to sites, and that if the IRA Working Group could come up with a small set of easily understood user data licensing provisions, similar (but not identical to) the Creative Commons license suite for digital works, it could usher in a whole new era of increased trust between users and sites.

Victor Grey called the IRAs session because he’s doing XRI-based data sharing projects where he needs IRAs today, and he wants the IRAs Working Group to start publishing even very simple ones just to get the learning started (Creative Commons licenses all went through several revisions too).

The outcome of the session was to jumpstart the work of the IRAs Working Group. Victor has already set up the mailing list. Please do join us if you support this work and want to help.

I believe IRAs have the potential to remove the last social hurdle to standardized user-controlled personal data sharing (XDI removes the last technical hurdles). I intend to be very active on the IRAs Working Group (as badly time-sliced as I am these days) so that we can make user ownership of personal data not just laudable but actionable.

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About Drummond Reed

Internet entrepreneur in identity, personal data, and trust frameworks
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