Send in your ideas. Deadline October 1, 2024
Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2019-06
End: 2022-10
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Data and AI

SOLID Data Workers

Toolkit to ingest data into SOLID

Solid Data Workers is a toolkit to leverage the Solid platform (an open source project led byTim Berners-Lee) into a viable, convenient, open and interoperable alternative to privacy-hungry data silos. The aim is to use Solid as a general purpose storage for all of the user's private information, giving them a linked-data meaning to enrich the personal graph and provide a first-class semantic web experience. The project involves a PHP and a NodeJS implementation of the "Data Workers" toolkit to easy the "semantification" of the data collected from external services (SPARQL queries build, metadata retrieval and storage, relationships creation...), some sample software component to import existing data into the semantic graph and keep it synchronized with back-end sources (primarily: emails and calendars), and a proof-of-concept application to showcase the potentials of the semantic web applied to personal linked data. As Solid may be self-hosted or hosted by third-party providers, Solid Data Workers may be attached to any of those instances and to different back-end services.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

In the 'real world', you instinctively know what information you should keep behind locked doors and what is safe to share. Your bank statements are stored in a folder somewhere in the attic instead of leaving them laying around on your kitchen table. You do not tell random people on the street what your phone number is, or where your children go to school. In the virtual world, this type of common sense can work differently. Users are quicker to trust service providers to keep their personal data safe from theft and prying eyes, and do not always see the dangers of storing passwords in an online text file, or sharing sensitive financial documents via email. The dangers are unmistakably there, but until someone close to you suffers the consequences of a hack or a privacy breach, the risks of online data storage are vague and its convenience is too tempting to pass up. People are accustomed to easy, accessible and convenient online tools and services. More private and secure open-source alternatives should not exclude users because of an overly technical setup or incompatibility with existing proprietary solutions.

Solid (or Social Linked Data) is a new approach to protecting personal data initiated by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web and developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The project aims to give users back full control over their personal data, which they can store in personal online data stores (or pods) and then give applications that run on the Solid platform access rights as they see fit. Users always retain ownership over their data, decide for themselves where it is stored and can change the permissions of any application that can access the data. Eventually the Solid ecosystem should offer decentralized and user-centric alternatives to centralized social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etcetera.

Convincing people to switch to Solid will take more than just telling them privacy horror stories. You cannot (and should not) scare someone into using your product, no matter how good your intentions might be. The alternative should be as good or even better than the original and switching should be easy and painless. That is what Solid Data Workers will provide: a toolkit that can bridge the gap between the online services you use now (email and calendars for example) and the Solid platform, keep data synchronized and allow you to import existing data to work flawlessly with the Solid technology and approach to data. Privacy is far from dead, but people usually lack the tools or technical knowledge to protect their personal data online. New and promising privacy-friendly platforms like Solid should be as inclusive as possible to actually make a difference and change the status quo of online personal data. This project can help make that change.

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.

This project is archived. Due to circumstances, the project as planned did not take place. This page is left as a placeholder, for transparency reasons and to perhaps inspire others to take up this work.