Data Coalitions and Escrow Agents

Jack Henderson, Matt Prewitt

May 31, 2023

Data Coalitions and Escrow Agents

Computer system and network security should be viewed as the other side of the coin of information sharing. What is needed is a systematic technical solution to the problem of sure and convenient access by individuals and groups to the resources they have selectively been authorized to use, at the same time denying access to individuals and groups not so authorized. The solution must include audit trails, authorization channels, and facilities for continuous testing and evaluation. The problem of determining who should be authorized to use what and how is, of course, a separate matter, since it depends on the context.

– J.C.R. “Lick” Licklider, founder of ARPANET, Computers and Government (1979)

Lick’s words above are from an essay highlighting what he felt were crucial elements missing from the original TCP/IP protocol for the internet. Alongside open protocols for identity, communication, and payments, he was calling for a protocol for governing information flows. The essay was hauntingly prescient, detailing the colonization by monopolists that would result if not for concerted multi-sectoral investment and public-private partnerships to proactively build such fundamental social infrastructure. Today, however, there is yet renewed hope, as we just come to grips with what the next steps in this agenda might require.

In our new report, “Data Coalitions & Escrow Agents”, Jack Henderson and Matt Prewitt describe these two new actors, their potential to help deliver democratic governance of data and AI, and how we can get started.

Read the full report