Bitmark solves big problems in today’s data economy

Most people have a different view of their data than reality.

People far too often still believe they own their personal data and digital assets when they do not. In the current state of big data, big companies make money by tapping into the enormous amount of “free” information created by individual internet users, bundle it together and sell it to the highest bidder. And when this content and data is stolen there is seldom any liability assigned or fines paid.

Bitmark’s tools define a new digital freedom by providing an economic framework of standardized property rights, rules and infrastructure — just like the ways in which we own assets in the rest of our lives. The system will allow individuals to derive value from digital property just as we do from the things we own in the physical world — selling, buying, transferring, donating, licensing, passing down, protecting, and much more.

Ownership is power for individuals. In modern society, freedom and economic prosperity means property ownership and accumulation of wealth.

Data is the ultimate externality: everything we do in the digital environment generates it.

When we walk or drive around, our phones are generating activity, location, and sensor data, just to name a few. This data is fragmented and it often varies greatly between individuals. Developers of each app or device extract what data they need for their specific purpose and largely ignore the rest. Data is the oil of the digital economy, driving growth and change. It will be increasingly important that individuals have rights surrounding how the data they create is accessed, transferred, and ultimately owned. Your data should be very important to you, and right now, technically it’s immensely challenging to protect and transfer your data.

There are few open market exchanges of data because the costs associated with data transactions are so high. There are unclear data property rights, so negotiations between parties are complex. To put it another way, new opportunities and markets could arise if there were easier, more structured access to personal data along with clear property rights. Bitmark is building tools to help initiate this structure and new data ecosystem where the individual is at the center of opportunity.

At the core of this effort is our property system, blockchain-based tech that records and indexes who owns what data. For example, in our partnership with UC Berkeley participants donate their personal data to public health studies. In effect, they are transferring a bitmark to their data such that the rights to use the data are recorded as well. This consent, “chain of ownership,” protects both parties to transaction, not just legally but also technically. Once the ownership transfer is recorded in the blockchain, the data is encrypted for only the researcher to access:

An open exchange of data respecting property rights.

We believe this type of transaction, where two parties directly exchange valuable assets via the blockchain, is a prototype for future data markets. Returning power of ownership to individual people in their digital lives will level the playing field for who can achieve success online. It’s not a stretch to imagine individuals accepting offers from commercial buyers for their data. Rules could be set that automate this based on specific standards. When data can be authenticated, and tracked back to its origin, parties can be easily compensated. And equally important — bad economic actors can be held accountable for negligence. All of this can create new avenues for wealth, prosperity and achievement on the internet that is not currently possible for the vast majority of people.

When an individual asserts ownership over their data control points change: networks become economies.

Take a typical online transaction, such as the sale of an eBook (a digital asset). We can ask who is in control:

  • The reader “bought” a non-transferrable license to access an eBook under specific conditions (eg: can be read in App A but not App B by user A but never user B).
  • The publisher (or author) receives little transactional information about the sale.
  • The network (platform) controls access to read or publish the book (via a mechanism known as Digital Rights Management, or DRM). If either the publisher or reader don’t like the terms of the transaction they are stuck by the DRM.

Compare this to the UC Berkeley data donation example:

  • The researcher has received clear, unforgeable consent to use an individual’s data for the duration of the study.
  • The donor knows that their data is going to a specific researcher for a specific study. During the course of a study they can opt out and no further data will be transferred. They can also directly communicate with the researcher if they have questions about how and where their data is being used.
  • The Bitmark blockchain controls access rights to the data stream. Only digital signatures from the donor or researcher can change these rights. (The data itself is encrypted on the donor’s devices for only the researcher. No one in the middle can decrypt it.)

When individuals have agency, over time, closed networks become open economies. We have seen this before with the ownership of land and also knowledge. Now is the time to make it happen with data.

Join us in our efforts to democratize the digital economy. Sign up for our beta and try our IFTTT service. If you have any questions, we’re @BitmarkInc on Twitter.

By Bitmark Inc. on June 25, 2017.

What to expect when you’re using Bitmark

In modern society, freedom and economic prosperity means property ownership and accumulation of wealth. But increasingly the stuff we create and value most exists only in our digital lives, where there’s no system for individual ownership. The Bitmark mission is to empower universal digital ownership so we can live free online. To get there, we are making simple tools that help you to interact with the Bitmark property ownership system. These tools will enable a new level of control and freedom over your digital life. You can:

  • Buy digital works, directly from their creators, that give you — the owner — full rights to use, sell, and trade.
  • Donate your health data, trapped in your devices, to researchers advancing the frontiers of public health.
  • Begin a digital estate to protect your online legacy and wealth.

How to get started

Bitmark will be easily folded into your everyday patterns. We’ve integrated with IFTTT to make asserting ownership over your digital life seamless:

If this, then bitmark

Once you’ve established a Bitmark account, quickly connect it to IFTTT and choose which applets will help you most. Some popular options involve collecting your photos across social media and storing them in one simple place. Your articles can be bitmarked and shared across the web with protected attribution. Or, you can donate the health data from you phone to aid researchers advancing public health.

When your personal data and digital assets can be automatically converted into your own property, the opportunities are almost endless!

When you’re interested in transferring your data to someone else, or perhaps someone asks to receive your digital property, the steps will be very simple to get you there. Since the individual is central to the Bitmark mission, we use the most direct interface possible. Here is an example of a photograph entitled Dune in California that Xarene created then shared over Instagram and bitmarked (assigned property ownership to it) using IFTTT:

Everyone in the world can view the bitmark for this property:

A bitmark contains all the important information necessary to authenticate the ownership claims over a digital property. Included is also the provenance — the full ownership history of the property.

Is Bitmark secure?

A good way to understand security is by asking “Who is in charge of security?” The Bitmark system was designed to put individuals in control.

Your data is first encrypted and then stored in cloud storage that you control. That is totally private. The property title for your asset, known as the bitmark, is stored in the public Bitmark blockchain. That is public so it can be authenticated by anyone.

When you want to transfer ownership of your property (eg: sell, donate, or bestow), technically you are transferring ownership over the bitmark to a new owner. Then they will have rights to the data. Transfer records form a “chain of ownership” acting as a public record that protects both parties to transaction. Once the ownership transfer is recorded in the blockchain, the data will be re-encrypted for the new owner and then transferred to them.

You don’t need to know how blockchains work to use Bitmark. Conceptually, what’s important to understand is that blockchains allow for the exchange of value without central intermediaries. This is something that was thought to be impossible. It’s why Bitcoin, the blockchain for money, is significant. It’s money, issued by the people (not governments or corporations) that can’t be forged or censored. Similarly, Bitmark, the blockchain for property, is significant because data can become a property, owned and stored and transferred by individuals freely as they choose.

What is this all for?

At the simplest level, property is provenance: the “chaining of ownership” from the present all the way to the origin. The ability to demonstrate clean title is what protects one’s investment in a property by guaranteeing strong provenance.

In today’s digital economy, individuals create so much value, yet we have little to no ownership over the content we create and the data we generate.

Bitmark’s tools define a new digital freedom by providing an economic framework of standardized property rights, rules, and infrastructure.

The system will allow individuals to derive value from digital property just as we do from the things we own in the physical world, including selling, buying, transferring, donating, licensing, passing down, protecting, and much more.

When you create your Bitmark account, you will be part of the digital revolution, you will own your piece of the digital economy. Once you’re in the network you will be able to:

  • Feel relief if you’re an artist because your images, artwork, doodles, messages, prints, photos, and work will be yours and yours alone.
  • Take comfort in the security that your digital files, statements, contracts, and information will be safe and tracked if something should happen to you
  • Have peace of mind that you can legitimately share the pieces of your digital world with anyone you choose to and that no one can take that away.
  • Feel like the cool kid on the block because you have just stepped onto the cutting edge of the new digital infrastructure.

Join us!

Here’s our IFTTT service:

By Bitmark Inc. on June 15, 2017.