Corporations hold massive amounts of data on who you are. But most of them won’t let you see what they know. Microsoft is working on a project to add transparency.
First tweeted out by Longhorn, Microsoft is in the early stages of a project called Bali to give you greater control of your data. When pressed for more details, Longhorn was even kind enough to provide a screenshot of an image from Bali’s webpage.
As Mary Jo Foley reports, Bali aims to follow the concept of inverse privacy. First proposed by Microsoft Research, the fundamental problem described is one we’re all aware of: companies contain a massive amount of granular data about individuals, but those individuals rarely if ever have any control or even knowledge of the contents of that data.
A good example is grocery stores. Many grocery stores offer rewards cards which are used to track purchases. Through those purchases, the grocery store becomes intimately familiar with likes, dislikes, habits, preferences. Enough to glean the likelihood of buying a just-released item and send the perfect coupon. But few (if any) grocery stores give customers full access to this purchasing history and the data derived from it. There’s no reason they couldn’t. They choose not to.
With Bali, Microsoft is attempting to give its users greater access to the data Microsoft keeps. According to the About Page, users will be able to:
…store all data (raw and inferred) generated by them. It will allow the user to visualize, manage, control, share and monetize the data.
Bali describes itself as a personal data bank. The implication here is not only greater security, but greater interaction. You put into the bank, you take out of the bank.
The project is in early private beta, however. And most of the links go to Microsoft related pages that don’t specifically mention Bali and its intentions. It’s possible Bali may never make it out of the beta stage, and even if it does it could be a commercialized service. But seeing Microsoft experiment with giving users more transparent control of their data is a good start, and hopefully other companies can follow that lead.