polypoly Cooperative publishes a technical white paper featuring its core technology, the polyPod. The cooperative is the first of its kind: A pan-European data cooperative in which shareholder-members own and profit from the underlying technology. Download now!

Things are totally out of control. We don’t know who has our data, what they have, and with whom they share it, nor for what purpose it is used, or for how long it is stored. Our data is repeatedly collected and processed by governments, private companies, and other organisations – often without our consent. Sometimes our data is even used against us. 

We founded polypoly as a countermeasure to this; to build a solution that will return control of our data back to us. We will decide who can use our data and for which purposes. We will define the rules. There’s no going back. 

This paper provides a high-level overview of one part of our technical solution: The polyPod. It introduces fundamental characteristics, technical decisions we have made – along with our reasoning – as well as some aspects we have not yet addressed. The core objectives of this paper are to set the stage for future white papers, which will cover each point in more detail, and to develop a clearer picture of what we are building. 

The current data economy suffers from severe problems resulting in an imbalance of power among market forces.

But the situation is greatly impacted by how technology is learned and perceived. The misuse of personal data almost always has an economic origin, and mainly affects people without deep technical understanding. 

This is manifested by two symptoms: 

There is no human-intuitive grasp of what technology does with our data. What computers do and don’t do is increasingly opaque and has very little bearing on how people handle things without computers. Paying with cash in a supermarket is fundamentally different from paying online with a credit card: The former is usually anonymous while the latter creates a surprisingly detailed data trail. 

The current implementations of technology are based on the notion that data is easily copied and computed, and aim to extract the maximum value from those operations. This sets improper economic incentives and thus rewards privacy-harming behaviour. Building a privacy-friendly and GDPR-compliant system currently means extra costs that generate no immediate value to a company, and can even put them at a competitive disadvantage. 

It follows that in order to properly address these symptoms, a two-pronged approach is necessary: 

Technology should extend our natural behaviour to the digital world, but not change it. And where that is not possible, at least the impact of technology must be easier to understand. It is important that everyone has an informed notion of what a machine will do based on their choices. The underlying economy and technical infrastructure needs to reward privacy-friendly behaviour instead of punishing it. 

A cooperative model for data tech

The polyPod is owned and developed by the polypoly Cooperative. It not only enables its members to participate in the profits generated using their personal data, but also makes them co-owners of the underlying technology – the polyPod. Each member has one vote and can participate in important decisions made by the cooperative. The polypoly Cooperative turns stakeholders into shareholders – those who were formerly data suppliers without influence, into owners with co-determination rights. This means that every member is also entitled to a share of the dividend, which is always paid out at the end of the financial year.  

Just like all other polyPod users, access to the personal data of cooperative members is decided by the members themselves. To whom access is granted, and for what it is to be exchanged – whether for a payment for example or as a donation to public interest projects or research, also rests with the individual. The polypoly Cooperative always receives a small percentage, which is reinvested in the development and operation of the necessary infrastructure or distributed to all members via the dividend.

The polypoly Cooperative is fully chartered and accepting new members from today.

WHITE PAPER AUTHORS

MAIN Christian Buggedei, Felix Dahlke • CONTRIBUTORS Jacek Bilski, Oliver Tigges, Thorsten Dittmar, Lars Eilebrecht, Lars Hupel, Mira Mezini, Oliver Tigges • EDITORS Laird Brown, Nils Loeber, Sabine Seymour 

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