Let’s Crowdfix the Data Problem Permanently

Those who seek to control you will do it by controlling your data. I have a solution.

David Siegel
Jan 7, 2014 · 6 min read

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.” — George Bernard Shaw

THERE’S SOMETHING YOU NEED, and I want to build it for you. It’s called the Personal Data Locker — a secure place online where you store all your own data. Here I’ll explain the problem, present a video that shows my solution, and then tell you how I will bring it to life.


Shouldn’t You Own Your Own Data?

It’s time to democratize personal data in a safe and secure way. I spent $10,000 of my own money and worked with a visualization team to make this short video to show you the vision …


The personal data locker is a revolutionary platform that will bring the power of the cloud to everyone, not just those who can afford iProducts. As hardware prices plummet to commodity levels, the hardware will disappear. Instead, the personal data locker will be the hub for your digital life. Access your data and do things on your wearable, pocket device, tablet, or wall. Using next-generation networks, tomorrow’s dumb phone will be a thousand times more powerful than today’s smart phones and will cost far less, because the data will start to work for us, rather than for the companies that control it today. As Mark Zuckerberg knows: whoever controls the data controls the digital economy.

This personal data — digital data created by and about people — is generating a new wave of opportunity for economic and societal value creation. — World Economic Forum report: Personal Data, the Emergence of a New Asset Class

The shift from push to pull is even more important than the switch from offline to online. I have been writing about this for years, and years. I even wrote a book about it:

My book on the future of data and the power of the personal data locker.

The people at the World Economic Forum and Personal Data Ecosystem have been working to bring it to our attention. And now it’s time to build it.

How, you ask?

By Planting A Thousand Seeds Normally, the way you power up a revolution is from a garage or a kitchen table, starting with a minimum viable product, getting traction, and raising more money as you go. We tried that with health data. We tried it with banking data. We tried it with personal data. We even tried it from a dorm room with crowdfunding. There are so many companies trying to become “the next FaceBook” we can’t even count them. So far, we still have a broken, siloed Web where the web sites and apps you use clamp down on your data and don’t let go.

We know that data ecosystems require infrastructure. We need to take advantage of existing infrastructure and create new infrastructure. Even things like names and addresses and resumes are severely broken, with endless copies and versions and exports/imports. We need to be able to work on these problems and find places where we can get traction. We need more critical mass and more mindshare. We need a brand. We need marketing and PR. This takes investment, education, and time to emerge.

Sugata Mitra’s vision is access to the Internet for all children around the world. Let’s help him give it to them.

Today, it’s possible to start companies and launch products for far less than ever before. My goal is to raise $20m and build the personal data locker (and its infrastructure) as a lab on a mission to change the world.

A lab has a chance, where dozens of small projects have failed. People want to own their own data, but they don’t want to manage it — the system of the future has to do that for them. We don’t know what that looks like, yet. A lab can try thousands of experiments and go where the traction is. A lab can partner with existing companies to create the necessary infrastructure for identity, security, privacy, legal rights, names, terms, data standards, interoperability, continuity, and more. It doesn’t have to be top-down and bureaucratic. It can be a mesh of interrelated projects, experiments, unstructured tinkering, hackathons, open-source initiatives, strategic acquisitions, lean startups, accelerators, and more. The winners will make up for the losers, and the entrepreneurs will all be part of it, so they win even if their experiments don’t make it. This is similar to the way Google operates: don’t plan too much, just try things and see what happens.

The business model will borrow elements from WordPress, Medium.com, Bitcoin, and others. It’s meant to be a set of open ecosystems that allow thousands of partners to plug in and add value.

A Word About Security Everyone wants to know about security in this scheme, since so much of your personal data will be in a single place, potentially vulnerable. Here’s the two-part summary:

  1. How do you like things the way they are now? As we saw with the Adobe password hack, the current situation online mimics our crumbling data infrastructure offline, leaving us vulnerable to attack and impersonation. It disempowers us, it disenfranchises billions, it threatens human rights, and it stifles innovation.

By putting all your data into one place, your data locker can have the security of the world’s best banks and government agencies. One password unlocks everything, or have as many passwords as you like. You can shut it down/override it in seconds if someone gets your password. Since there will be many vendors, you’ll be able to choose your level of security and how much you want to pay. I’ve written much more about security — there are legitimate concerns, but they are better addressed elsewhere.

Now is the Time We’ve learned a lot from what has and hasn’t worked over the past 15 years. I’ll assemble a core team of hackers, pretotypers, marketers, engineers, advisors, mentors, technologists, business development people, entrepreneurs in residence, and more. We’ll have a few central locations where we’ll build the core open-source code, and anyone will be able to come try out to work with us. My team will be energized by the mission to change the world.

The way you can tell this is valuable is to ask yourself whether large multinational corporations would spend serious money trying to kill it. They would.


David Siegel is one of the world’s first bloggers. He writes about management at the Business Agility Workshop, on the future of data at The Power of Pull, makes videos on YouTube, asks hard questions, and tweets @PullNews.

If you have read this far, your next stop is “The Quickstart Guide to the 21st Century.

    David Siegel

    Written by

    Entrepreneur, writer, investor, blockchain expert, start-up coach, founder of the Pillar project and 20|30.io