Myda is a digital assistant that helps people understand the personal impact of data collection and enables them to opt-out where possible.
Helene Benz
Shamim Bakhit
Independent project
Citizen data empowerment
Currently, every major city has millions of sensors that produce a staggering amount of data every millisecond. They are only becoming more digitally connected and more populated - thirty years from now, an additional 2.5 billion people will live in urban areas. But as cities become smarter, citizens continue to be passive data points in ever-increasingly complex data ecosystems. Today’s movements for individual rights to control personal data, such as GDPR, are reactionary and lag behind technological development. Additionally, the market lacks a way for citizens to understand the world of data and take control. So how we might empower citizens to better understand and control their personal data so that they can make more informed decisions in an increasingly digital urban environment?
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The complex world of data
Many people assume digital identity is the basic demographic and interest data collected and displayed by social media companies, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Institutions gather far richer data-based insights than just this personal profiling data. Insights can be broken down into behavioural observations, like real time location and assumed relationships, rather than choices we consciously make or input, and algorithms make predictive decisions about you. Our digital footprint is pieced together to create a picture of who we are, what we like and how we'll behave, thus allowing for public and private institutions to financially benefit from or, in the case of Cambridge Analytica, manipulate individuals. The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed how sophisticated algorithms based on digital footprints can influence the voting behaviour of millions of Americans -- demonstrating the use of data and digital identity to shape behaviours and enable bad actors to manipulate citizens. As we move into more connected urban environments, digital identity is no longer primarily web-based. The data journey of a citizen in a smart city extends past their computers and phones. Data is collected through mobility, CCTV facial recognition, movement data, payment information, healthcare info from wearables, and many more.

Citizens are passive data points in current smart city infrastructure

The current ecosystem is such that private companies and governments collect data in silos, with citizens as passive data points. While individual quality of life can certainly be improved through this, citizens are an indirect participants rather than a mutually beneficial stakeholder in the smart city power structure. We believe self-controlled identity should be the core foundation of future smart cities. To get there, solutions must focus on citizen empowerment, privacy, understanding and control of one’s data. Given this, our project explored how we might empower citizens to better understand and control their personal data so that they can make more informed decisions in an increasingly digital urban environment.

Empowered citizens are aware and have control over their personal identity

We found that people generally underestimate and lack knowledge about data collection and that because there is no simple and engaging way to understand data, citizens feel that they can’t exercise data rights. The lack of transparency and sense of privacy generates low trust in institutions and people feel there’s room to create new privacy standards. To feel empowered, they want transparency and a continually accountable relationship with institutions. But transparency isn’t enough - control means a way to act, or in the case of data, the ability to opt-out. To create change, we need to first build awareness. People can’t trust data collectors if they don’t understand their purposes or the larger ecosystem. Second, we need to enable control via opting-out and informed decision-making. And third, demonstrate value generated for both citizens and companies. Citizens would have increased agency and leverage, while companies gain expanded customer bases. All of this with the end goal of increasing citizen data empowerment, citizens being more active participants in the smart city dynamic and wider adoption of ethical data collection practices.
Myda | Citizen data empowerment
Set up Myda | People need personalised suggestions, to trust organisations with their data, and open and honest communication. When you go through onboarding with Myda, you can express any sharing preferences and can build immediate trust because the data relationship is clear (Myda doesn't collect your data for benefit!). Analyse data collected | On the homepage is your data overview, where instead of being overloaded with information, you are guided by clear actions to protect your data and shown what to investigate. Learn about the ecosystem | So you can better frame your role and develop a narrative around personal impact, our learnings page teaches you about the data ecosystem with simple animations and summary boxes. Take action | The directory allows you to research company data collection practices before you give your data away. It will also show you alternative companies so you can make informed decisions that align with your personal preferences. Finally you have control -- opt-out of companies that you're already using who don't align with your sharing preferences.
The new data ecosystem
Myda’s presence helps shift the digital ecosystem. Instead of a transactional and mostly one-sided relationship, with Myda it becomes one in which the citizen creates accountability via an open data ecosystem, leading to more trusting relationships between citizens and institutions that improve collection practices. With Myda, citizens now understand and control their digital identity. They're involved, proactive, make informed decisions and have a greater peace of mind.
special thanks
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