Current events

Fifty experts sign a manifesto in favour of a more transparent personal data management and visualization model

  Photo: Without authorship.

Photo: Without authorship.

Mireia Manjón
Specialists have created an application based on blockchain technology that permits signing digital citizen initiatives in a more secure way

This Monday, more than fifty members of European research groups gathered in Barcelona to present and sign a manifesto for data sovereignty and commons, in a collective action to propose alternative data management models, which are more transparent and democratic. The event took place at the Escola Massana art and design centre and was organized by UOC researchers from IN3's Tecnopolítica and Dimmons research groups and Barcelona Ciutat Digital (Barcelona City Council). The manifesto is the result of six month's work within the Digital Democracy and Common Data (DDDC) process, part of the European DECODE project. Those involved in its creation wanted to reaffirm the need for a common turn in public data management.

The Data Commons Manifesto is the first of its kind in that it warns of new forms of surveillance, exploitation, manipulation or discrimination by large data extraction corporations, and proposes an alternative model in which information is available to all: "Open data and personal data control initiatives are a step in the right direction against corporate data and data extractivism. However, we must go further. A fairer data economy implies advancing towards a strong model of data commons. [...] There is a need to advance from open data to data commons, from "my data" to "our data".

The spirit of the manifesto has been put into practice with the introduction of a new system to sign digital citizen initiatives in a more secure way, which has been developed over recent months: the DECODE app (available at Google Store and App Store). This software has been applied to the citizen participation platform and is based on blockchain technology, which permits the user to share the data of their choice in a granular, encrypted and decentralized manner. The information collected is used to perform demographic analysis and is accessible to all citizens with the BCNNow dashboard. Antonio Calleja, from the Tecnopolítica research group, confirmed that this new technology "improves political networks for citizen participation, such as Decidim, and builds a narrative around data commons and sovereignty" to encourage people to take control of their own data.

Among the participants in the session were the commissioner of technology, Francesca Bria; free software programmer, artist and activist Jaromil Rojo; the director of the Dimmons  research group, Mayo Fuster; and the coordinator of the project Decidim, Arnau Monterde, who, after the presentation of the manifesto and the application, debated the opportunities and risks mentioned below. The experts agreed that the DECODE app is, as Francesca Bria put it, "the beginning of a great experiment" and that the alternatives must continue to be built in large-scale processes. Furthermore, Mayo Fuster emphasized the fact that, thanks to research projects such as DECODE, technological development is moving in a fairer direction. This is the case with the study on the characteristics of one hundred digital platforms, which resulted in the three pillars that define data commons: the governance of data and economic models, technology and knowledge policies and, finally, social impact and responsibility.