Skip to content



Internet monopoly is stifling fair social and economic innovation - new report

  • DECODE project claims people should have more control over their online data ahead of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

  • Pilots underway in Barcelona and Amsterdam to trial new technology

A new report launched today by DECODE(1), a major EU Horizon 2020 project, makes the case for people to have more control over how their personal data is stored, managed and used online. Me, my data and I: the future of the personal data economy argues that putting people back in control of their data could radically change society and the economy for the better.

Led by the by the Technology and Innovation Office at the city of Barcelona and delivered by a consortium of 14 European partners(2), including innovation foundation Nesta, DECODE is a three-year project to develop new tools that will enable people to consciously share their data in an independent, secure and trusted way. Reviewing the limitations of the current internet landscape, the paper summarises that citizens have unwittingly surrendered their online identities to a handful of big digital platforms, with little transparency about how their information is used for profit or influence. Equally, because of this, a multitude of social and economic opportunities are being missed.

To illustrate this further, the report details the four pilot schemes now underway in Amsterdam and Barcelona to test the DECODE tools and explore the social benefits of widespread data commons. They are:

  1. BCNow Platform - in conjunction with Barcelona City Council’s digital democracy platform Decidim. Barcelona, DECODE will aggregate citizen-generated data and then display it on the BCNow dashboard. Citizens will be given the option to control how their information is used and informs policy proposals. DECODE’s anonymous verification capabilities will minimise the sharing of sensitive, personally identifiable data with the council.

  2. #CitizenSense Internet of Things - data from neighbourhood noise sensors given to Barcelona residents will be gathered and analysed by DECODE to help citizens influence city-level decisions.

  3. FairBnb - DECODE will help Amsterdam City Council and the FairBnB platform address the need for a more sustainable solution to short-let holiday-homes. DECODE will provide statistics and regulatory information so that the community can govern the platform without compromising participants’ privacy.

  4. Gebiedonline (Neighbourhood Online) - Amsterdam City Council aims to spread this cooperative digital platform to other neighbourhoods in the city and leverage the platform to increase people’s involvement with policy decision-making. With DECODE’s controls, residents can decide what information they share.

Francesca Bria, DECODE Coordinator, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer, Institut Municipal d'Informatica de Barcelona said: “Today, citizens have little say in how their data is gathered or used. Data is accumulated in the hands of few online platforms that profit from its value, helping them to secure control over the digital economy. Immense power has been shifted to just one sector of society as a result. We need a new Social pact on data, to make the most out of data for the public good, while guaranteeing privacy and information self-determination for citizens.”

Six imagined personas from the year 2035 are also used in the paper to create an optimistic vision of a future where people have the tools that give them control of their personal data. Florence, for example, shares information about her long-term health condition with researchers of her choice via an opt-in data commons. Or Sarah, an ethically-minded entrepreneur, who minimises the amount of personal data she gathers and uses anonymous customer analytic data for business development.

For more on this and the pilots, read Me, my data and I: the future of the personal data economy and visit  


For more contact:

Juliet Grant in the Nesta media team: [email protected] / +44 (0) 20 7438 2668

Notes to editors:

  1. DECODE  (DEcentralised  Citizen  Owned  Data  Ecosystems) is a European Commission funded project to explore and pilot new technologies that give people more control over how they store, manage and use personal data generated online.

  2. DECODE is delivered by a consortium of multidisciplinary partners - including, the Institut Municipal d'Informatica de Barcelona, Eurecat and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunta from Spain, Amsterdam City Council, Dyne, Stichting Katholieke Universiteit and the Waag Society in the Netherlands, Politecnico di Torino from Italy, CNRS from France, Arduino from Sweden, and innovation foundation Nesta, Thingful, ThoughtWorks and UCL from the UK.


Francesca Bria, Technology and Innovation officer city of Barcelona continued: “A transition to a more inclusive digital economy, and associated platforms, can only be possible if we succeed in building digital technologies that respect people’s fundamental rights, and make it possible to share the value of data amongst the people who provide it. DECODE will give control over their data back to citizens, making possible for cities to create local alternatives to dominant digital platforms such as Uber and Airbnb.”

Eddie Copeland, Director of Government Innovation at Nesta said: “Without a radical rethink about the future internet we want, we risk sleepwalking into a world in which a few online platforms have total dominance of our online lives. That is bad for privacy, bad for trust, and bad for innovation. The key to building a fairer internet is to give people a real choice in how their personal data is used. Regulation such as the upcoming GDPR goes part of the way to achieving that. But we also need new tools that put citizens back in control of how their data is protected, shared and used.”

Tom Demeyer, Head of Technology Development at Waag Society said:  “As more aspects of our lives are digital, from our interaction with institutions to our interaction with our ‘friends’, our digital footprint becomes our digital self; to many we *are* that digital interface. Soon our bodies will be the avatars of our *real* self, this digital self. We’d better make sure that we have some say in who we are.”