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A PDS (personal data store) is a platform through which people can securely store, manage and share their data. OpenPDS stands out due to its innovative SafeAnswers tool which uses privacy-preserving technology to analyse large-scale behavioural data.

Personal data shared with corporations is usually anonymised (or de-identified) by having all identifying labels removed. However, data science researcher and designer of OpenPDS Dr Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye and his team at MIT proved that with only four geolocation data points a person could be uniquely identified within a large scale mobile phone dataset of 1.5 million people.

To solve this problem and maintain people’s privacy, they created the Q&A system called SafeAnswers. When a third party, like an app, needs some information from a user, it sends a couple of lines of code to openPDS. If approved and validated, the personal data store runs this algorithm on their data accordingly and sends back a validated “answer” containing only the indispensable information. Through this strict need-to-know basis, apps can’t actually see the data and it never leaves the safety of your PDS.

Trials to test its performance in the field have already taken place. The largest is now in Senegal, where openPDS has partnered with Orange to implement a large scale experiment into how the company can use people’s mobile phone data to discover valuable insights whilst preserving user privacy.