A personal data store aggregates all of the data a person produces through internet-connected devices - phones, computers, most household utilities, health trackers, cars - as well their photos and videos; sentiment, emotion and preferences; their consumption data; and their personal medical data.

While the scope of their data is huge, most people choose to use default settings on their personal data store, based on culturally defined ‘norm sets’ which offer a basic level of privacy, and then alter their preferences from an overview dashboard. This provides control via layers of granularity to keep the process manageable. From here people can grant permission to others to see their data, and call upon their data, as they choose when accessing online services.

Each data store can also utilise privacy-preserving technology. This is a means of authenticating credentials or other characteristics without ever having to reveal any more information than is strictly necessary. To quality for access to services with exclusion criteria, individuals can use this technology to gain access without having to reveal their personal information. The technology also enables people to be anonymous but authenticated. For instance, a city government can run a petitions platform which people can sign without having to reveal their identity at any point.

Meet Ben

Age: 32

An online shopper and self-employed graphic designer

Ben uses the sophisticated sharing settings on his personal data portal to select exactly which data he is sharing depending on the service he uses on the internet. In effect, Ben is presenting a different digital version of himself to each service and individual he comes into contact with.

Ben has a disability which means he qualifies for some government benefit payments. He lives in public housing, and is a self-employed graphic designer. He has to deal with the government frequently - to claim his benefits, to manage his housing tenancy, and to pay his taxes.

To claim benefits, Ben is able to authenticate his credentials and prove his eligibility without the government seeing who he is, or what specifically his disability is - the government just knows that Ben is a genuine person who is eligible for the benefit. To pay his taxes, Ben can create a permission for the taxation office to have access to all his earning and spending data for a set time period. The taxation office’s artificial intelligence-enabled inspector automatically calculates Ben’s taxation bill. Ben simply has to grant the permission and arrange the payment.

When he’s travelling, or knows he will only be using a service once, he has a setting on his personal data portal which creates a ‘burner profile’ of himself. The service is able to verify that Ben is a real person, but Ben’s data is blended and abstracted so that it is generalised and no longer personal to Ben. It represents a vague outline of Ben’s preferences and demographic, enough for the service to provide a personalised offer, but not enough that it could identify Ben. This ‘burner profile’ is discarded after use.