Personal Data Stores – The Time is Coming

This entire fall has been intense with work, thus the paucity of posts here. The holidays brings a welcome respite and a chance to catch up with a few key mental threads.

One of them is the growing awareness of the need for what the VRM community calls personal data stores (PDS). The concept is relatively simple: an online store for your own personal data — anything from classic PII (personally identifiable information), such as your identity and contact data, to any other data that you generate or control (files, blog posts, pictures, papers, music, videos, etc.)

Three things have surprised me about PDS:

  1. How generally accepted the notion is by almost anyone who spends much time online, even folks well outside the identity community. It’s a relatively intuitive idea as soon as you understand the basic premise that individual people should have their own data source online.
  2. How many names have been applied to the same general concept. As I indicated, PDS is only the term applied by the VRM community. The same general concept has been called probably a dozen other names. Here’s an excellent blog post by Mark Dixon that calls it a Personal Identity-Persona Service and a Security Identity Bank Vault.
  3. How hard it is to implement. Though there have been several attempts, such as the Mine! Project, nothing has come remotely close to catching on yet.

I have several theses as to why this is so (and yes, the need for a Internet data sharing standard like XDI is high on the list), but I’ll save those for another blog post.

Here, I’ll just conclude with a simple prediction: it’s a threshold problem. Once the first practical solution for PDS starts to take hold, it will catch on and grow just like the first social networks did. The only question is what application will provide that initial traction.


About Drummond Reed

Internet entrepreneur in identity, personal data, and governance frameworks
This entry was posted in Data Portability, Dataweb, Personal Data Store, R-Cards, Relationship cards, Social Web, VRM, XDI. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Personal Data Stores – The Time is Coming

  1. Melvin Carvalho says:

    Nice post, I think this will be a winner.

    Something like DropBox has momentum and some potential, also includes aes 256 encryption.

    In the open source world Ubuntu One is not far behind.

    In linked data land, there’s much talk about Linked Data Spaces.

    Jungle Disk can allow you to sync to your amazon s3 / rackspace cloud.

    The APIs need a bit of work however, especially when it comes to access control.

    Mark Dixon’s post was almost spot on. However, the correct model is not centralised with your bank, but a hybrid of decentral and central stores, which leads to a self healing network.

    As for his question, will we this functionality see by 2015? I’m guessing there will be a few try and fails early next decade, before the big one takes off (this may well be Ubuntu One based), and we’ll have something usable around 2020.

  2. Nice post! I’ve been postulating and demonstrating Personal Data Spaces, Unified Storage, and Data Access for a while now 🙂

    My platform is called OpenLink Data Spaces, it handles a myriad of data formats, organizes them by Entity Type and makes all the related data available via a variety of query interfaces and mechanisms (e.g. HTTP using REST based Data Access patterns).




  3. I agree: the PDS time is coming.

    I wrote a similar/related post entitled:
    “About gathering web 2.0 personal data into one safer place”

    (1) First, thanks for the Mine! project link. It has been an interesting read.

    (2) My idea is to use set-top boxes as a hardware solution for storing personal data.

    So, it’s about using set-top boxes for hosting a PDS.

    (3) The Mine! project is related to what I wrote and detailled into my post:
    – this project is about giving a response to the ‘how’ question,
    – while my post is related to the ‘where’ question.

    Or, to say things differently:
    – Mine! is related to the software side,
    – while my post is more related to the hardware side.

    (4) I agree there is a threshold problem. And that’s why I mentionned Apple in my post’s (updates).

    With iPad, I have understood why Apple wants to keep control on hardware+software.

    It’s because they want to change technology+experience, both at the same time.

    Well, IMHO, the situation is bit similar for personal data stores (PDS): users are going to switch towards such a store only when hardware+software would be both available! The software for developping such a store is coming, and [Mozilla] Weave could be seen as an iteration for such a store. But, unfortunately, on the hardware side, the situation is worse. Paying a server for hosting purposes is not mainstream and indeed, there is no mainstream solution. The personal store revolution would be only ready when both hardware+software conditions would met [the need for both conditions create the threshold problem]. IMHO, the set-top boxes could give a mainstream hardware storage solution, providing the missing condition.

    (5) The answer to the question about what application will provide the initial traction may be not a “traditional” application 😉 Since iPhone, we know traction could be provided through… an application store.

    I hope to see an application store associated with set-top boxes in order to gain more and more audience and interest.

    See my post if you want to read more details about my proposal (set-top boxes for hosting a PDS).

  4. Matt Daniels says:

    Isn’t PDS what the fresh/new/exciting “cloud computing” is all about? How are they different from each other? Either way, yes, I agree, it’s only logical that this is where our PII storage is headed…

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