DIGITAL TRUSTMEDIARY (DTM)
At the heart of the new GLIAnet ecosystem is the trustworthy and accountable entity called the Digital TrustMediary (DTM). Within GLIAnet, I am no longer merely a User, a Consumer, the passive object of countless everyday pings as others try to make money from pieces of my life. Instead, I am now a Client, at the very center of an empowering technology universe. And the DTM is now my Agent.
The DTM is distinguished from most Web entities today by three interrelated dimensions of individual human control: trust, accountability, and support.
First, I get to choose the DTM to act as my digital representative to the rest of the online world. This choice can be based on whatever factors are important to me, including trustworthiness, or accountability, or simply cool empowering tech. These entities could be anyone -- for example, broadcasters, newsrooms, credit unions, universities, small businesses, ISPs, libraries, or unions. The premise is that it is better to start from a position of voluntariness and trust, and layer on the cool tech, rather than the other way around.
Second, the DTM would abide by specific fiduciary obligations to me. These are the basic, old-school rules of the marketplace that seem to be left behind with most Web companies today. In particular, these include the duties of care, and loyalty, and good faith, and candor, and confidentiality. Together they amount to positive duties to actively promote the digital interests of the client -- not unlike the legal obligations that today bind our doctors and lawyers and professional financial advisors.
Third, the DTM would establish and protect your digital life support system. As a basic level, the DTM can manage your online passwords, maintain your online subscriptions, set up your digital wallet, monitor your Web searches for pernicious sites, engage with online terms of service, establish push notifications, and moderate content feeds. At a more advanced level, the DTM would zealously guard your Lifestreams, and arm you with various digital tools of the GLIAnet ecosystem -- your digital life support system. These include emerging technologies such as personalized Avatars, and Cloudlets, and Personas, and I/O MOD devices, and dApps, and MyAccess.
Digital Life Support System:
That combination of technology tools that together protect and promote my human interests. Those tools include Lifestreams, Avatars, Cloudlets, Personas, I/O Mods, dApps, and My Access.
What some people refer to as “personal data.” Data is a well-known term from computer science, written in the binary language of 1s and 0s. That concept now has been imported into the real-world of human beings, without much consideration. Each of our lives now is being represented in digital code by countless known and unknown Web entities. But without proper context, and nuance, these binary bits have little true human meaning.
As typically defined today, personal data constitutes a relatively thin stream, based largely on a person’s biographical profile and past activities. And from that data, Web entities seek to build a virtual construct, meant to represent that person, and her/his value to them as a consumer of stuff. To them, data is property, a resource, a line item on their balance sheets.
The Lifestreams concept posits that a human life is much richer, deeper, and more complex than what the 1s and 0s currently represent. Each of us is a unique bundle of experiences and relationships -- personal profile and past actions, but also present mindsets, and future intentionalities. Hopes and fears and aspirations. All of this together is a far more accurate representation of our lives than Web entities are able to assemble with surreptitious surveillance devices and data gathering and inference engines.
In the GLIAnet ecosystem, if one chooses to have a digital self, it should represent a person as a cascade of vibrant, rich, ever-changing Lifestreams. And each individual is fully in charge, on one’s own terms.
Today, only large tech companies have artificial intelligence (AI) agents. These include Siri and Alexa and Google Assistant, perched in our living rooms or on our mobile devices, listening to our every word, and ready to sell us something. These AIs are not limited to our home environment. Increasingly, when we walk down the street, or go to a shopping mall, or stop off at a bar, cameras and sensors and drones are all around, eager to capture bits of information about us. In these scenarios, often we have little to no knowledge, and certainly no recourse. We, and our families, are mere passive objects of what has been termed “surveillance capitalism.”
The Avatar is meant to change that imbalance, by making artificial intelligence and machine learning systems available to all of us. The Avatar is a personal AI, meaning its sole function is to represent us in daily online and offline interactions. Much like Jarvis -- Tony Stark’s personal AI within his Iron Man helmet -- the Avatar could be always with me, representing me and my needs. This could include, for example, interacting in real-time with other AIs on our behalf, perhaps gathering information, or negotiating terms of data access, or blocking facial recognition cameras. In short, the Avatar is a virtual ally, combining in one software bot both a Right to Engage, and a Right to Be Left Alone.
So many issues about personal data today -- from opaque uses and misuses, to damaging hacks and breaches -- stem from the fact that it resides in the “cloud.” This means our personal information sits on server farms spread all over the world, where pretty much anyone can access it without our express consent. This situation benefits no one but the Web entities, and their ecosystems, and of course the hackers out there trying to steal our private information.
The Cloudlet would change all that. The premise is straightforward: personal data should be local, period. Information about me should be held in storage facilities behind a virtual wall of strong encryption. My own Cloudlet. In this scenario, computation moves to me.
The Equifax server farm breach serves as one example. In September 2017, Equifax was hacked into, and the personal records of some 145 Million Americans were stolen. As a consumer, I had zero recourse. Because I have no legally recognized commercial relationship with Equifax, I have no ability to respond, including getting back my data in the first place. In hindsight, that situation never needs to occur. Because Equifax, as with countless other holders of personal data, don’t really need to retain it all the time. Instead, they have occasional need to access the data to run certain financial and credit scoring reports on me.
In the Cloudlet scenario, when Equifax or anyone else has a valid and authorized need to access my data, they would come to my TrustMediary, knock on the front door, and request access. Assuming everything is validated, Equifax would interact with the data, use what they need to run their reports, and then retreat -- leaving the actual data behind. And that would be it. The Cloudlet model has a number of other benefits, including increasing the attack surfaces to such an extent that widescale breaches should become a thing of the past. My data -- my Lifestream -- stays securely within my own zone of trust and accountability.
Just as the Lifestream can contain the vast richness of who I am, I should also be able to control how I present myself, my personal identity, to the digital world. Not reduced to a one-dimensional commercial figment by Web entities. Or, on the other hand, compelling me to become far more vulnerable online than I want. When I go to the open Web, I should have the ability to share as much, or as little, of myself as I want -- what has been termed a “self-sovereign identity” layer. And, in turn, to take as much or as little from the Web that I want.
Pay Pal is early day example. One need not post credit card information to every website -- Pay Pal gives you a way to complete each transaction, while hiding that billing information behind its encrypted paywall. The same general principle would apply with the Persona, but in more comprehensive and interesting ways. With “zero knowledge proof” algorithms, for example, an intermediary can represent to the Web minute bits of personal information.
Having a Persona avoids the take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiable nature of too many interactions on the Web today. The Web becomes much more of a two-way street, where each of us has some say over how the world reflects us and our priorities.
Fully modular personal devices.
Fully decentralized and personalized software applications.
Individual network hot-spots.