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Tim Berners-Lee Startup Launches Privacy-preserving Solid Platform

Ross Kelly

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Tim Berners-Lee

Berners-Lee founded Inrupt in 2018 alongside entrepreneur John Bruce with the hope of creating a more transparent, privacy-focused web.

Inrupt, the tech startup launched by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has released its first enterprise-grade version of a Solid Server.

Solid is now live and, according to Inrupt Chief Executive John Bruce, has been adopted by a host of major organisations including NatWest Bank and the BBC.

The NHS is also an early adopter, according to Inrupt, and is already “empowering patients with their own medical data to improve people’s health and lower care costs”.

In a blog post online, Berners-Lee said Solid has the potential to “fundamentally change” how businesses connect users with personal data and described it as the “fruit of two years of work by our outstanding team”.

“It’s going to drive groundbreaking new opportunities that not only restore trust in data but also enhance our lives,” he wrote.

Berners-Lee founded Inrupt in 2018 alongside entrepreneur John Bruce with the hope of breaking down traditional data silos and creating a more transparent, privacy-focused web.

A key focus of the Inrupt project has been to provide web users with greater control over their personal data and allow them to choose how data is used by both public and private organisations.

“The web was always meant to be a platform for creativity, collaboration and free invention – but that’s not what we are seeing today,” he said.

Business transformation is hampered by different parts of one’s life being managed by different silos, each of which looks after one vertical slice of its life, but where the users and teams can’t get the insight from connecting that data.”

He added that traditional, siloed methods of data storage have led to a growing level of public scepticism about whether their data is being used appropriately or responsibly. In turn, this has prompted the introduction of increasingly complex data regulations.

How does Solid work?

In essence, the system provides each individual with full control of their own personal data – a vast change from what your average user experiences today.

Solid works by collecting personal data and storing it in secure data stores, known as ‘pods’.

A user can choose to create a number of different pods, with each being used to store different types of data, ranging from digital identity information to personal photographs.

Users are then given permission controls that enable them to control which apps or organisations can access their data.

Related

While Berners-Lee is acknowledged as the ‘Father of the World Wide Web’, in recent years he has begun raising serious concerns over its state and direction – particularly in regards to the use of data by tech giants and social media firms.

Speaking at the launch of Inrupt in 2018, Berners-Lee said the web had evolved into an “engine of inequity and division” that was increasingly controlled by “powerful forces” that use it as a tool to further their own agendas.

In November 2019, Berners-Lee also led the launch of a Contract for the Web, which sought to encourage governments, private companies and citizens to promote a more transparent and user-friendly internet.

Key principles of the Contract included giving users greater control of their personal data. At the time of launch, more than 150 organisations, including Facebook, Duck Duck Go, Google and Microsoft, pledged support for the contract.

DIGIT will host its fourth annual Data Protection Summit on 10th December. 

The event will explore key trends in data protection and information security, as well as the legal issues and obligations surrounding data protection in a post-GDPR world.

For more information on how to register, visit dataprotection-summit.com

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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