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Centralized Collection and Control of Personal Data: Due for Disruption or Unstoppable Trend?

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Published on Jul 17, 2012

Talk by Arvind Narayanan at Mozilla July 2012.

Centralized Collection and Control of Personal Data: Due for Disruption or Unstoppable Trend?

While the Internet was conceived as a decentralized network, the most widely used web applications today tend toward centralization. Control increasingly rests with centralized service providers who, as a consequence, have also amassed unprecedented amounts of data about the behaviors and personalities of individuals.

Developers, regulators, and consumer advocates have looked to alternative decentralized architectures as the natural response to threats posed by these centralized services. The result has been a great variety of solutions that include personal data stores (PDS), infomediaries, Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) systems, and federated and distributed social networks. Wikipedia lists over 40 distributed social networks! And yet, for all these efforts, decentralized personal data architectures have seen little adoption.

In this talk, based primarily on a recent position paper [1], I will argue that decentralized architectures face tough barriers to adoption, and even if adopted, will not necessarily provide the privacy benefits that are typically ascribed to them. I will then present recommendations for working toward more achievable goals, with particular emphasis on the role of browser vendors.

[1] Arvind Narayanan, Vincent Toubiana, Solon Barocas, Helen Nissenbaum, Dan Boneh. A Critical Look at Decentralized Personal Data Architectures. http://randomwalker.info/publications...

Copyright Mozilla CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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