Internet reports surfaced earlier this month that have set a few tongues wagging.
The reports came on the back of a post from a Twitter user who initially wrote a message claiming to show a screenshot of a website for a project named ‘Bali’. The user wrote that “Microsoft Bali is a project that can delete all your connection and account information” and that the project was still in private beta.
Since this tweet was posted, some online sources made their way to the project website to find out more, although any included links in their reporting no longer seem to work. However, these reports have confirmed much of the same information: Microsoft is working on a research project aimed at giving users greater control over their personal data.
Given the current climate and legitimate concerns over data, this would seem to be a timely project indeed. Reports that claim to have managed to access the site noted the description in the ‘About’ page, writing that Bali described itself as a “new personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them. The bank will enable users to store all data (raw and inferred) generated by them. It will allow the user to visualize, manage, control, share and monetize the data”.
The online reports have also claimed that the concept behind Bali stems from the idea of ‘Inverse Privacy’, the title of a research paper by Microsoft researchers back in 2014. ‘Inverse Privacy’ essentially refers to the idea that a user’s personal data is inversely private if a third party has access to it but they do not. For example, if a user had access to their own credit rating it would allow them to correct any possible errors in the data, possibly improving their quality of life as a result.
At the heart of this reported project, then, is the idea that users should have greater control over their online data, something which many people would be keen to embrace. How this would work in practice is unclear, given that Bali is in its initial private testing stage. However, at its core seems to be the idea that people can have a dedicated space to bring together personal data from various online sites and view that data as they wish, with Microsoft ultimately helping the user to gather that personal information held on them.
As this is a research project, it’s quite possible that it will never see the light of day. It is also possible that some users might be uncomfortable allowing another third party company to aggregate their personal data in this way. It would be interesting to see it progress, however, and at the very least, the fact that a global company as large as Microsoft is concentrating some of its efforts here does show the importance that business is placing on data control and privacy issues.
Giving users the chance to have greater control of their own online data would surely appeal to many users, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Microsoft’s research teams dedicate some of their time and efforts on a project like this.