What is Data Sovereignty?

What is Data Sovereignty?

Steve Mackey
June 1, 2021

Do you know who owns and can access your personal data? Do you care? Well, you should. Data sovereignty is the collection, ownership and storage of your personal information, and online identity. 

According to Wikipedia—“Data sovereignty is the idea that data is subject to the laws and governance structures within the nation it is collected.” 

Unfortunately, Wikipedia and most of the world’s governments have utterly missed the point. Data sovereignty should not be about who collects the data, it should be about who creates the data. 

The focus on who collects data—Facebook, Google, Amazon, your bank, your government etc.—rather than those who created the data (you), enables Big Tech to infiltrate our screens with targeted ads, and gives some governments the ability to monitor their people’s every move.

As Edward Snowden revealed—assigning ownership to data based on where it is collected is a loophole used by governments to spy on people and build profiles from online activity. If the data collected by U.S. companies is stored on U.S. soil, technically the U.S. government has sovereignty over it—meaning they own it. Even if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you can still be profiled by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Do things like due process and the rule of law apply to the ‘virtual’ you?  

So, what’s wrong with the NSA examining your profile consisting of millions of data points tracked by your phone manufacturer, your mobile service provider, and social media providers like Facebook and Google? Well, this profile may be similar to the actual you, but it is not the real you.

It is a collage of all the different versions of you. It is your social media, searches, emails, pictures, and contacts—taken out of context. If Google can send Nike ads based on you typing ‘sneakers’ into a browser, surely the NSA can flag you as an anarchist for attending a May Day demonstration via your pictures on Instagram. Any one of your past posts could be used to attack your character or incriminate you. We should be concerned about who has access to our data—not blithely accept that it is the government or companies that provide online services. 

We should own your data and decide who can access it! 

Data self-sovereignty is a relatively new concept often associated with digital identity.  At Manyone we talk about self-sovereign identity all the time. Since you create your data—you should own it. This is the central idea behind our mobile app, Manyone. The only way to have true data self-sovereignty is by decoupling your personal information and connections from your metadata

It’s time to replace usernames and passwords with encrypted digital certificates or tokens that are issued and revocable by only you. Data self-sovereignty is the only way we can ensure a safe digital future for all of us.

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