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When talking about Solid and a personal data web, one thing that always comes to mind is “data ownership” and “hashtag own your data”.

The Own Your Data movement is all about giving you control over your digital life. This movement was sparked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and is now more popular than ever before.

However, contrary to what its name suggests, the proposition of the Own Your Data Movement is not that you should own all data that is stored about you.

Does this confuse you? Well, don’t worry. You are not alone. Many of our clients were also struggling with this insight.

But, why is there a confusion anyway?

Well, the reason lies in the fact that Solid was originally conceived to replace social networks like Facebook and not so much to be used by companies or governments to give their customers or citizens more control over their data and transparency about what their data was used for.

And, the personal data which is stored on social networks like Facebook are of a different kind than the one that are stored by companies or governments.

Indeed, while it is only natural that you yourself can update or delete your information at Facebook, it is unthinkable that you simply have write access to your data at your bank or your government. Otherwise, you could simply adjust the balance of your checking account so that you are a millionaire and change your address so that you won’t ever have to pay an invoice again.

According to personal information management theory, this is because social networks store data of you like your likes, your photos, your friends and your messages while companies or governments store data about you. The theory says that it is only fair to have ownership over the first kind, but not over the second.

Why is it important to distinguish between data you own versus data about you?

Well, it’s about expectations.

We’ve noticed that companies are often hesitant to participate in a Solid ecosystem or a personal data web because they think it will lead to a situation in which their customers have full data ownership and can thus do anything with their data.

Thus, it is only when our expectations about data ownership are in line with this distinction, that companies will participate in a personal data web and hence give Solid a proper chance to succeed.