Using Data Unions as repositories of personal data
In order to facilitate the development of open garden social networks it is necessary to have a safe place for consumers to place their personal data, not just where it can be stored and accessed, but also to control access and to provide a reliable digital identity. Many years ago I thought up a scheme I called a data union, kind of a cross between a data bank and a credit union, which would provide exactly that form of reliable and safe storage for a consumer's personal data. I finally wrote up a rough, summary description back in 2005, but I have not yet pursued the concept any further.
The intention is not so much to store a consumer's bulk data such as documents, photos, media, etc., but simply to store and control the attribute information that might be needed for online transactions and promotion of products and services, such as name, address, phone numbers, social security number, age and birth date, gender, interests, and whatever. The intention was to give the consumer great control over exactly what personal information is available to whomever.
It would be a natural extension to have a data union safety deposit box, which would be a modest amount of digital storage, maybe in the megabytes or a "few" gigabytes, sufficient for documents, valuable images, etc., but not intended for full-blown personal storage.
A data union would be an ideal repository for online digital identity credentials, or at least as a digital identity validation service. For example, the consumer could approve an entity with which they are willing to transact and then the consumer could provide a transaction code to that entity which the data union could verify.
A data union would enable the consumer to be as open and visible and transparent or as closed and hidden and secretive as they wish.