From: Felix Oldenburg
Abuse of user data by platform operators is a big problem. Foundations could step in and negotiate terms of use.

It could have been so beautiful. The knowledge of the world, accessible to all at the touch of a button. Communication without costs. The Internet as a global commons. Instead, data leaks, identity theft and fake news.

It’s an awkward insight that creeps us in the face of mounting scandals: abuse of user data does not seem to be a side effect, but rather lies at the heart of the successful business models of the data age.

500 Euro, that is the data of a Facebook user currently worth, if you divide the market value of the company by the number of its active users. If one adds Twitter, Instagram , LinkedIn to it, surely some hundreds of euros will be added. Even more valuable are probably the information on search habits at Google, not to forget the shopping history at Amazon. And so on.

We can not help asking the big question of who, probably the water’s most important resource in the world actually belongs to and how it could be shared. If you want to understand the course, you can look into the history of the other raw material, which is often cited.

That data is the oil of the 21st century, is misleading – data do not consume, but gain by use of value – but in terms of wealth effects instructive: Since 1800 have been promoted over 1 trillion barrels of oil, today’s prices worth 100 trillion dollars , A little more than that is estimated still in the earth. The value of the data will be much higher. However, only a few have benefited from the oil, political scientists prove the curse of oil wealth.

That oil assets can also have a different effect is shown by the foundation of oil baron Rockefeller, who has spent $ 17 billion on thousands of non-profit organizations around the world in just over 100 years. There is hardly a place in the US that does not have schools, libraries, museums, and years and decades later, oil revenues.

What if the idea of ​​the foundation – for which oil was only a later drop in the bucket – could be an early and constitutive (partial) solution for the world of data? It’s not too late. Digitization is still in its infancy .

Anyone could voluntarily contribute their own data, thus becoming the founder of the user. A foundation could negotiate terms of use in the interest of the general public and, in addition, regulate the ownership of the data permanently and beyond death. It could negotiate terms and conditions with companies for the economic use of personal data and make data and income available for charitable purposes.

Smart and predictive decision rules

A crazy idea? No. The Foundation has for centuries been the place where our society secures ownership of key values ​​and infrastructures: from the libraries of monasteries (also called “pens”) to health care in endowment hospitals, from nineteenth-century charitable housing developments to the Assets and obligations from steel (German Federal Environmental Foundation), coal (RAG Foundation) and nuclear energy (disposal fund).

A foundation would be independent of governments, could act unaffected by election cycles and location competition. It belongs to nobody except their good and unchanging purpose. Firstly, it only needs a protective legal framework. This is not a trivial prerequisite, but more than any other legal form, the Foundation has been able to preserve wealth for society through crises and wars over the past few centuries.

Secondly, it needs clever and forward-looking decision rules. In any case, it would be obvious today to implement co-determination online in part by the donors themselves.

Like the Wikimedia Foundation , which stands behind the largest collective work in human history. The many developers of free software such as Apache or Mozilla have also incorporated their code into foundations. Initiatives such as already represent the idea of ​​user-centered data management, and the Berlin-based IOTA Foundation uses the legal form to define rules for autonomous transactions between machines.

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