cellphone with graphics on top Source photo by Walling on Unsplash, edited by Mozilla

Ideas about new forms of data governance are on the rise, suggesting alternatives to big tech monopolies. Could this help us reimagine, reconstitute, and rebalance skewed power dynamics?

How data is controlled and governed is central to Mozilla’s understanding of internet health and trustworthy AI. We are committed to working with others to reimagine data governance as a building block toward a trustworthy AI ecosystem.

The Data Futures research presented here is an open study by Mozilla Insights that examines approaches to data stewardship and alternative data governance (in theory and in practice).

This research will help inform decisions to support new technologies and infrastructure, as well as support further cross-disciplinary thinking, as part of Mozilla’s new Data Futures Lab. The Data Futures Lab will resource projects and foster networks across the ecosystem of actors seeking to realize data governance alternatives which redirect agency, ownership, value and power back to the people from whom these elements are commonly extracted. We believe that informed and collaborative experimentation in the data governance field, motivated beyond the consolidation of power and profit, should be a priority and at the center of our work in this space. The more people deploy trustworthy models to govern and handle data in the future, the bigger impact it will have on the health of the internet and the AI field we are trying to change.

To kick things off, with the Data Futures Lab we will initiate convenings and we’ll fund initiatives to design, build, test, or scale future products that can unleash the creative, financial, and political potential of more equitable data futures.

As part of this broader effort, this research series will be expanded periodically with more publications throughout 2020. We are committed to working in the open, collaborating with others, and sharing our findings widely to advance and complement a growing community of thought. In the next phase, we will be focusing on mapping the ecosystem and demand for data stewardship. We will answer questions such as: ‘Who is building?,’ ‘Who is supporting?,’ and ‘Who needs this?’ in order to understand how to be a catalyst for good.

Our first studies in this series describe:

Our work draws in no small part on insightful publications and personal input from friends at Luminate, Aapti Institute, Ada Lovelace Institute, Global Data Barometer, Open Data Institute (ODI), The Governance Lab, Nesta, Center for International Governance Innovation, among many other allied groups and organizations.

This analysis is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Project team

J. Bob Alotta - VP, Global Programs

Kasia Odrozek - Project Lead and Strategy

Solana Larsen - Editing and Strategy

Stefan Baack - Research

Eeva Moore - Outreach

With thanks to all contributors

Afef Abrougui, Nabeel Ahmed, Tetyana Bohdanova, Beatriz Botero Arcila, Ana Brandusescu, Tim Davies, Sylvie Delacroix, Alix Dunn, Jonathan van Geuns, Kristina Gorr, Chris Hartgerink, Astha Kapoor, Moses Karanja, Max Kortlander, Dr. Srivatsa Krishna, Danny Lämmerhirt, Raegan MacDonald, Madeleine Maxwell, Claude Migisha, Marilia Monteiro, Edafe Onerhime, Natalie Pang Lee San, Aidan Peppin, Abigail Phillips, Keith Porcaro, Anouk Ruhaak, Stephanie Russo Carroll, Nathan Schneider, Socrates Schouten, Tais de Souza Lessa, Mark Surman, Sander van der Waal, Peter Wells, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Richard Whitt.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • How can power be shifted through data stewardship? For instance, if a trusted entity uses legal safeguards to uphold the rights and interests of individuals or groups.
  • Does ‘data governance’ have to do with governments? No, it’s a term that refers to what rules are applied to data by whomever has data to manage and control.
  • What kind of data do you mean? It depends on context. We’re interested in personal data, but also agricultural, mobility, and all other kinds. Whatever can unlock more equity.
  • How important are community centric approaches for managing data? Very. Data can be leveraged in different contexts for community empowerment and collective needs.
  • Is this all about selling personal data? Not to us. We want to empower users with alternatives to the commoditization of data by big tech, data brokers and others.
  • How does a person get more control? For instance, by deciding who can use or share data or by having the technical means to give or revoke access to different entities.
  • What difference can a clear purpose make? It can facilitate informed consent around data use or sharing. Plus digital infrastructure can be designed with intention.

This is part of a broader movement for a healthy internet. See more.