Computable Whitepaper: A fair market protocol for data

Announcing our new paper: Fair value and decentralized governance of data

There has been a lot of backlash towards large technology firms recently. Some of it is well deserved, and some of it feels a bit harsh. The truth is that aggregating data is a necessary component for data-driven innovation. For instance, we benefit from countless products, such as web maps and navigation, that large Internet companies have been able to develop because of the wealth of data they possess. However, it shouldn’t just be large tech companies that control the world’s data. The wealth distribution of data is at present dangerously skewed, and we need to establish fairer practices in how our data is controlled and used.

Given its subjectivity, fairness can of course be hard to define, but we can get a pretty good start by laying down some sensible ground principles. At Computable, here are just some of the things we believe in:

  • People should have the right to keep their data private

  • If they choose to make it public, they should know how their data is used

  • They deserve basic rights even if their data is in the public domain, including the right to compensation and attribution based on their terms of use

  • In the open market, more valuable data receives more usage

  • Because of replication, data lineage is key to establishing data ownership

  • The source of truth for data lineage must be transparent and trustless

Using these guiding ideas, the Computable team has been hard at work developing a new kind of protocol for fairly sharing data. Today I’m excited to share a new whitepaper that discusses the economic and governance framework behind the protocol. Fair value and decentralized governance of data is meant to be a resource to the community of innovators hoping to create a better way to share and monetize data while respecting personal rights. We hope the ideas presented will spark some of your own. If so, please leave us a message on our new forum or talk to us on Discord. We’d love to find ways to work together!

What’s coming next

In the coming weeks, we will deploy our smart contract implementation of this protocol on a public Ethereum testnet. Until then, you can follow our GitHub repo as we continue to develop in the open. Soon developers can build decentralized data market applications with powerful data lineage properties using our protocol’s functions. Application users will be able to leverage the Ethereum blockchain to record ownership of data and control data access. The trustless and transparent transaction records that result offer a universal source of truth for data lineage and authorized access. When combined with regulatory trends like CCPA and GDPR, this powerfully makes data ownership enforceable. When unauthorized use of data is discovered, owners can point to auditable records to prove that they never gave consent to the violating party and pursue appropriate legal recourse. In the future, we will further help owners protect their data by progressively incorporating powerful privacy technologies.

Another key feature that the protocol will provide is the fair distribution of value for crowdsourced datasets. People and businesses alike will be able to pool their data together (to compound its collective value) and sell access through decentralized data markets powered by the protocol. As that data resource gets consumed, the protocol tracks how often each contributor’s data is used. It then proportionally rebalances market ownership and distributes payments accordingly. As a result, those who have made the most valuable contributions, as measured by real-world usage, will receive the greatest financial reward, rightfully so. This dynamic ownership scheme also forms the basis for a fair and decentralized governance model. Those who continue to add the most value to a network receive the most voting power in making governance decisions. Those who cease to add value meanwhile see their influence erode, defeating rent seeking behavior and helping to sustain healthy and active governance participation.

Give the paper a read to learn more and talk to us on our forums or through our Discord channel. The paper was written so that interested developers have enough detail about the design to begin spec’ing out their own implementation code if they so choose. (Or you can always refer back to ours!) This paper primarily focuses on the economic and governance design behind the protocol. We tried to simplify where we could, but truthfully the protocol’s mechanics and cryptoeconomics involve a great deal of nuance and complexity. Over the coming months, we will release a series of posts that will unpack and explain these nuances as educational content for the community. We will also create documentation materials for those who are interested in working in, on, and around our implementation code. Finally, we will share more research resources including simulation results and various tools to help developers get to building. 

We’re on a path to create universal access to data while greatly respecting those who create that resource. It is a commitment that requires solving numerous challenges in the years ahead, but we think this protocol offers a significant step forward. We offer it as an open resource, and we can’t wait to see what people will do with it!

Resources