Cooperatives are essentially an association of people who come together to form a joint business operation. The idea behind it: to achieve together what is impossible alone. Classical examples are the purchase of an apartment building or shared agricultural machinery.
The Cooperative is a business entity, like a GmbH, AG, a limited company or a corporation. In a cooperative, however, everyone has only one democratic vote to decide how the company operates. In a GmbH, corporation or other company however, the person with the most shares has the most decision making power. Thus, hostile takeovers are impossible in a cooperative, because no competitor can buy it out or take a controlling share. The largest shareholder gets a larger share of the pie at the end of the year, but cannot impose a decisions upon others regarding what the business should do or how it should operate.
The European Cooperative (Latin: Societas Cooperativa Europaea (SCE)) is a company form available under EU law since 2006 and is therefore governed by a significantly more modern legal framework than that offered by traditional German cooperative law.
We at polypoly believe that you and everyone else should have control over your personal information. This can only be achieved by a fundamental and sustainable change in the data economy. We have set out to create a new economic system for data, not alone but together with citizens, businesses and governments – for the benefit of all – but this time with citizens on an equal footing with the rest of the players.
We are driving a paradigm shift in the digital world by establishing a decentralised infrastructure of personal, local data storage that allows everyone to reclaim, save, manage, use and share their personal data. In doing so, we are massively improving existing apps and services, making them more accurate and personalised without sacrificing privacy. You alone determine who knows what about you.
A Cooperative is a collection of people who voluntarily agree to come together in support of a common economic, social, and/or cultural cause to achieve a collective goal. It’s the intersection of an association and a company.
In a typical corporate structure, only a few people can own parts of a company or have the power to make decisions on behalf of an organisation. A Cooperative on the other hand belongs to its members. Each member is equally empowered with decision making rights. This is why Cooperatives are considered “democratic businesses” – because every member has a vote and each vote carries the same weight, regardless of how much of the company the voter owns.
polypoly was founded as a response to the current challenges and problems created by the digital landscape of mega-unicorns and centralised data storage. To create a counterweight to that, we need to enable people to participate collectively in fair data management. We founded a European Cooperative to give anyone who wants a voice, a vote and a personal stake in the company – and this will empower users towards collective profits through fair participation.
Cooperatives have always existed as long as humans have shared work: That is, from time immemorial. As an official organisation, some consider The Shores Porters Society, established in 1498, as the world's first Cooperative. But they came into being as a legal entity during the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution as a way to embody worker's rights and improve labour conditions. Those same conditions gave rise to the Socialist Movement, which idealised the Cooperative as an economic body. Today, Cooperatives have gained traction again, similar to energy companies that team up with individuals to install solar panels on their rooftops and share the income gained from the excess power together.
The Societas Cooperativa Europaea (SCE) was established in 2006 and is a European Cooperative, a legal form that only exists in the European Union. It was established to enable pan-European businesses that are collectively owned by citizens of Europe. At polypoly, we are using this institution to build a citizen-centric data economy that can operate across the European Union and include all Europeans.
All EU citizens can become members of the polypoly Cooperative, if they are older than 18 years and not a US citizen. In addition, we would like to make membership in the Cooperative also possible for people who are residents in an EU country and have a permanent residence permit. However, In some cases further steps are necessary to examine and approve the membership application.
Yes, but in this case we reserve the right to conduct a more comprehensive examination of the membership application. However, if you have a US citizenship in addition to a European citizenship, you cannot become a member. This is because US law allows its citizens to sue the polypoly Cooperative in a US court instead of a European one, and we must protect the Cooperative in the interests of its members.
All members have equal rights and obligations. Every member has one vote, regardless of the number of shares a member holds. Members can participate in meetings, events and voting decisions at their discretion, but participation is not obligatory. The level of involvement is determined by each member individually – anyone can choose to be a "silent member" and remain inactive if they wish.
One way that members can participate in the Cooperative is when members come together to vote and decide on issues. These meetings will probably be held in an online environment. The other way that members can participate, is by electing the Board of Directors, which is responsible for the management of the Cooperative. The members of the Board of Directors are elected by the members of the Cooperative at the General Assembly. The Board of Directors can then establish other groups as and when needed - to focus on providing support or advice/expertise regarding specific topics or areas of interest. Members can also participate by joining these supporting groups.
The Cooperative is democratic. Members vote on who should govern and how governance structures operate - as long as this does not conflict with the law. This means that a cooperative functions similar to an association or a political party, but uses methods of a company and participates in the economic process to achieve its goals.
The term Data Economy roughly describes economic activity using data, a synonym would be data trade. We use this term to describe the entire system of companies and other players involved in the collection, storage, evaluation, trade, etc. of personal user data. Part of the data economy are, for example, large American corporations such as Facebook, Amazon, Google etc. and German companies such as Telekom as well.
Currently, the Data Economy is designed to gather as much as possible about you for the purposes of using, selling or sharing this private information. All of this happens without your control, without your permission and mostly even without your knowledge. Data privacy is an illusion in a world where huge profits are made from Data Trading. More than ever, this statement holds true: If you are not paying for it, then you are the product.
Digital sovereignty means being master of your digital identity again; you control your information at all times. You know which companies collect, share, sell and process which data about you. You control who knows what about you and what this information is used for.
It is only when Europe creates its independent Data Economy, which is fundamentally different from the American or Chinese counterparts, that we as users can regain our privacy. European data capital can then be reclaimed and the European economy will become competitive. A European Data Economy is necessary if we want to maintain our strong economic position.
Data is valuable because it can be used to offer services, improve products, target advertising and much more. But data does not have a fixed value like other objects; it is traded like currency in the Data Economy. The term "Data Capital" refers to both these circumstances.
In a Data Economy, when a person has more Data Capital than others, then that person is considered "Data Rich" and whoever owns the most Data Capital is king.
This depends on many factors, such as your age, your income, your activities, your preferences, the apps you use, and much more.
Basically, it can be said that the more comprehensive and complete the data sets are, a more complete profile of you can be obtained and better quality data sets based on complete profiles are worth more. Additionally, the greater your income, the greater the value of your data, as you are then a more rewarding target for advertisers. The average market value of a person's data however, is less than one Euro.
This can only be estimated, but large quantities of data are stored in the data silos of large American companies. For example, In 2016, 97% of Facebook's revenues were obtained from advertising, or in other words: Facebook earned around 23 billion Euros with the data of its users. Every day, millions of Euros worth of data capital are being transmitted to the USA from Europe via undersea cables.
A large portion of our economy is based on data. If the data capital generated in Europe flows abroad, it threatens our economy and that affects us all. More importantly, the rules regarding data collection and processing are also extremely important. The only way to ensure that these European rules are being followed is by bringing back our Data Capital to Europe.
The main reason such a large amount of data can be stolen is that data records are all stored in the same place; a Data Silo. This location might be secure, but the security needs to breached just once by hackers in order to access all the data. If all data records were stored instead in a decentralised way – with each data record in a different location - the incentives for hackers to steal data in the first place would be dramatically reduced.
Knowledge is power. This is especially true for election campaigns, because elections, like everything nowadays, are increasingly determined by numbers. Which candidate says what, where and to which target group, what ads are shown to whom – even policy platforms are increasingly chosen based on data. Candidates with better information about about their potential voters can motivate them whilst demotivating opposition voters – addressing both in a highly targeted manner. For example, both Obama and Trump's election campaigns in the USA were massive social media and data campaigns, and the same happens in Europe too. All political parties are increasingly using digital media and personal data to influence elections.
You can download the polyPod like an app onto the device of your choice. Your personal data is then securely stored on the polyPod and it provides the infrastructure for further applications and features. The polyPod itself acts as a store and a mediator for your data. It enables you to reclaim your data from companies like Google and Facebook and store it on your devices. From there you can freely dispose of your personal data, share, donate or rent it, to whomever you want. The algorithms come to the data instead of the data leaving the polyPod.
Features are like small apps, which can be provided by companies, GOs and NGOs which extend the polyPod with specific functions. These features are loaded onto the polyPod from a Feature Depot and are executed locally. Within the polyPod, the features have access to all the data available in the polyPod and can therefore offer you new and personalised services.
Feature depots are digital locations from which features are downloaded onto the polyPod. There can be any number of them. Each depot can be operated by different providers and contain different features. In this way, we prevent dominant providers from determining the entire market and controlling access to features.
Digital shadow or digital twin refers to all the information that is available about you out there in the digital world. Your digital shadow or twin follows you wherever you go on the internet. Most of the time you are not even aware of it, but it strongly determines your digital life. For example, depending on the information that is saved about you, you will be shown different prices or offered different insurance rates when you shop online. In extreme cases, your digital shadow or twin may even be intentionally or unintentionally falsified, for example, in the case of identity theft, credit card fraud or any other digital crime committed online.
Our goal is to make the digital world and data economy understandable for everyone. To facilitate this, we are working on putting together a kind of encyclopaedia of the data economy, the polyPedia. In the future, thanks to the polyPod, you will have the ability to personalise information about the data economy based on your data. Through this, you we will be able to tell which providers know what about you and what they do with this information, with whom they share your data or why you have received a certain rating from a credit agency – among other things. We want to take you behind the scenes of the data economy and make this information understandable and accessible for you. This is polyPedia.
With the polyPod you will be able to request your personal data from a variety of companies and load it directly onto your polyPod and make it available for other purposes. Our goal is to make this happen in as few simple steps as possible. As soon as you receive your data, you are back in control and can decide who can or cannot use it and for what purposes.
We are currently planning to make the polyPod available in the first half of 2021. COVID-19 has also left its mark on us. That's why we participated, together with many others, in the DP-3T (Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing) efforts this year. Much of the technology behind the various corona tracing apps was developed due to this program. This project was important to us and had priority over other projects due to the current situation. Therefore the release of the polyPod has been delayed until the beginning of next year.
For the initial release of the polyPod we will provide a limited number of features. These include:
We are already in discussion with various business partners who would like to provide their own features based on the polyPod infrastructure. Our infrastructure is open source, and thus open to everyone and covers all conceivable areas of application, whether streaming, insurance, shopping or messaging.
The majority of hacker attacks on personal data are financially motivated. Hackers don't tend to target individual people, but try to get hold of as much data as possible in order to sell it or use it themselves. If millions of data records are in one place, this makes the effort involved in the hacking of such data financially worthwhile. But if this data is distributed over millions of devices, all of them would have to be hacked individually. This is how we achieve a higher level of protection for you as a user – with a decentralised approach.
In addition to the security aspect, a decentralised infrastructure is also more fail-safe and resource efficient. We follow the edge computing approach, meaning calculations are performed directly on site, eliminating the high energy costs for data transfer and additionally reducing the need for expensive servers. Of course, the lower energy consumption also benefits the environment.
We make every line of code for the polyPod available, transparently, to everyone. That way the tech community can directly keep checks and balances on what our programs do and also report bugs. This creates trust and enables us to solve problems faster and better together with the help of the community. We are also convinced the open source approach is the right one for another reason: we are against monopolists and we don't want to end up becoming one ourselves. Therefore it was clear right from the beginning that everything we develop is going to be open source.
We at polypoly are convinced that we need transparent companies, not transparent users. We follow the edge computing approach, which means that calculations are performed directly on the spot. All data is stored locally on your end device and can be used by the features. If a feature is to execute a function, it simply calls the corresponding algorithm from the server of the manufacturer and executes it locally. This way the algorithm gets to the data and not vice versa. This approach enables us to save on high energy costs of data transfer and there is no need for expensive servers.
Trust needs to be earned and for us, your trust has the highest value. We want to earn your trust and to prove that, we have decided to transfer the rights of the technology that we developed to the cooperative and in turn, to its members. But that's not enough! The whole technology stack is open source. We want to give you the possibility to hold us to account, according to your capabilities. As a member of the cooperative or as a developer, who can look at our source code closely and help us with improvements in the future.
Not yet. We will let you know in our Member Newsletter as soon as there is a stable version.
Yes. When we release it, we will make the source code available under an open-source licence. Since the code and especially the associated documentation is just as fundamental as the polyPod itself, we wish to be as transparent as possible to earn public trust.
Features for the polyPod can communicate with the polyPod via an application programming interface (API). This is necessary to increase security for users. We will publish the exact interfaces when we release the first version of the polyPod. Until then, please understand that we want to work on these on a smaller scale for the time being.
As a fast-growing pan-European cooperative with a projected large membership base, we naturally need to to hold elections online.
It will be possible directly from polyPod. This feature is under development. As it is still some time until the next general assembly, other functions are more urgent at the moment. In addition some legal requirements still need to be clarified.
To be clear: This function will not be deployed for state elections. Other cooperatives and associations have shown interest in this feature and we are open to it, but we also know our limits.
The polyPod and the Solid Pod have some commonality. To a degree our technology is compatible; respectively we rely on similar technologies.
The main difference is that a Solid Pod does not bring its own data processing functionality. It makes the data available to other external apps. A polyPod brings the algorithms into the pod and processes the data without making it visible to the outside.
At least for now the Solid Pod is missing some elements that are required to implement legal security for citizens, for example.
Either way, Solid is a great project with which we feel closely connected.
The polyPod is a software for individuals and not for organisations. Neither for parties nor for companies.
Every organisation is free to offer polyPods to its members or employees and/or to offer special features for their internal organisation.
Our technology will ensure that private life and life within an organisation are not compromised.
At the moment, however, we have only received such requests from other cooperatives.
We are working on it but we still need a little time. Until then, please send us an email with your membership number to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help you as soon as possible.
We access various sources. For example, on open portals such as https://opencorporates.com/, but also directly on the privacy policies of the websites of the respective companies.
We do not rely entirely on automatically retrieved data, but carry out an additional manual check for all data records.
In the long term you will be able to install an instance of the polyPod on widely used end devices. These will then synchronize so that your polyPod is always available – even if the mobile phone is off but the computer is still on.
We have several pillars:
Finally and ultimately, we are striving to make profits as quickly as possible and to use part of them for further development.
The polyPod helps you to recognise what data you reveal to others. But also to answer data requests in such a way that a service provider can tell what you need, but not who you are. For example, it is important for a shipping company to know your address in order to deliver parcels to you. However, other personal data such as your relationship status is irrelevant for this service.
In general this is a very complex issue. Simply explained, everyone has different identities. For example, you present yourself differently to employers than to your closest friends. Our technology takes this into account. Within the polyPod, different identities of a person are available. Each user can then freely decide to whom they show which identity and they can decide which information, in which depth, they reveal within the respective identity.
We will be publishing more details on this which will better reflect the complexity of this issue.
Yes, in general, all data transmission and synchronisation is controlled decentrally, i.e. only by the participating polyPod installations (called instances by us).
There will be a few exchanges that exist solely to help the instances connect directly to each other. This is how many common P2P protocols work. These exchanges have a central role but are themselves decentralised. So there can be many of them at the same time and they can also be operated by different participants. This is a proven technology that is widely used for the basic operation of the internet.
We have not yet decided which protocol we will use for which type of connection/communication. But for compelling reasons we do not want a central component through which data flows - even if this data is encrypted.
To start, versions for Android and Apple mobile devices will appear. In the long term, versions will follow for all common desktop operating systems, entertainment systems, IoT devices and whatever else the hardware manufacturers can think of.
No. This is not necessary in principle even if it is desirable. You as a citizen have right on your side. Every company is legally obliged to hand over all the data it has stored about you. Unfortunately, the handing over of data happens in such a way that very few people can relate to.
This is where polyPod can help you. Via your polyPod you will be able to retrieve your data. It will organize the data in a comprehensible way so everyone is able to explore and assess their personal "digital shadow".
Since the data is then with you within your polyPod, you can also make it available to other companies, provided they have your trust.
This is a very important step not only for you as a citizen, but also as an employee and taxpayer. By requesting your data, you are bringing them back into the European legal and economic framework. This automatically strengthens the European economy because no data trader or data monopolist can come between you as a customer and the European economy. Additionally, all digital services that you use via the polyPod are provided in Europe. The consequence is that they must also be taxed in Europe.
Step by step, the supremacy of the big data silos is thus diminished. This creates a market pressure forcing big data monopolists to adapt to the rules of the European market.
Not at all in the beginning. Health data is a very sensitive asset that needs to be handled with extreme caution. This market is rightly highly regulated and we are not yet equipped to tackle this issue.
We thought so at the beginning but surveys with companies have revealed a different picture.
We offer two options for critical algorithms:
In addition, companies will have the option of having particularly sensitive algorithms certified in advance and then encrypted.
Founding a cooperative is laborious. Unlike other legal forms (e.g. GmbH/AG), multiple documents must be submitted to the cooperative association before chartering, which then checks them thoroughly. We successfully went through this process, which is not without its difficulties.
Afterwards we started with the application of our cooperative. In doing so, we deliberately decided to beat the advertising drum quietly. After all, setting up a cooperative is not something for which there is a pattern, especially not if you want to be sensitive to data protection. So we are still in the learning phase, testing and trying out how we want to communicate.
Of course, we are pleased that although we are still under the radar, polypoly can now welcome 333 members as of 15 December 2020. We still have a long way to go, but after a promising start we are looking forward to growing further.
No. Blockchain is a different technology for which there is currently no meaningful use in our country. But later on there will certainly be places where blockchain or related technologies will play a role.
Of course, the data on the phone remains encrypted so a finder cannot read it.
There are several options for backing up your polyPod – including all data – so in the event of a device loss, the data is preserved.
The simplest option is to synchronise the polyPod over several instances (e.g.: also on your own PC) so that you always have several copies of the data on your devices.
In future there will be further options, such as a social backup – families or close friends can form a group. Within this group, each member makes part of their storage space available for the encrypted storage of data from other group members.
They don't have to volunteer but they are legally required to contribute. Through the GDPR, they must hand over your personal data.
Whether they play a proactive role will be determined by the market. The more people use the polyPod, the more companies have a vested interest in being part of it too.
Their business model is currently based on the fact that they are the only ones who store your data. Of course this means that they could develop a pod themselves. But currently they have no reason to do so. It also goes against their business interests, at least in part.
They would certainly not accept it if you – as a Telekom customer – could not send an SMS to a Vodafone customer. However, the operators of the large social networks are currently acting the same way. You can't simply communicate between the networks and you can't switch and take your friends with you. This creates pressure for you to go to a certain provider and stay with them, because you want to be where your friends are.
For this reason, there is no reason for social network operators to support independent technologies where you can operate across platforms or even switch. Since the business models are based on the ownership of data, it would be counterproductive for the operators to develop such a technology themselves – especially not one that belongs to the users.
This only affects a small amount of data. For example due to accounting obligations and the like. Roughly speaking, this applies to 2-5% of the data in normal business transactions.
Currently we are working on labelling this data separately within the polyPod so that it is transparent and comprehensible for you.
The challenge here is that it can be different data from country to country and from business case to business case. A nut that is not easy to crack. We already know how we want to crack it, but it will take some time until we have implemented the solution within the polyPod.
For technical reasons, all polyPod features can only send data to the Internet with your express consent. And even before installing a new feature, polyPod will inform you about how the new feature behaves: What data types it requests and what information it wants to send to the internet. As a polyPod user, you always have the last word. Secret data transmissions are excluded.
Also, we create economic incentives for companies. Companies want to secure their market position by producing products that are perfectly tailored to the needs of their customers at the lowest possible cost. Our technology helps them to do that.
The polyPod achieves a significantly higher data quality, firstly because the data is not distributed in different data silos, and secondly because the data quality increases due to the voluntary nature of the data. This helps companies to develop better products. At the same time, they save immense costs for the operation of servers and in the time-consuming administration of maintaining GDPR-compliant processes. This is because the data always remains on the polyPod and all necessary calculations are carried out there.
The idea behind polypoly is not just to ward off "encroaching" companies, but to offer companies incentives to do the right thing.
You must actively agree to the connection of third-party providers (such as Netflix) with the polyPod through a feature at least once. Afterwards, you can choose whether you always want to be asked for further data processing, or whether you want to grant a model permission for a specific and desired behaviour for this provider. But even in this case, you can always check what data has been processed and, based on the GDPR, recall it at any time.
No – the use of polyPod is free of charge for all users.
There will be several decision-making tools that build on each other:
So we don't use AI (Artificial Intelligence or Artificial Intelligence) at the moment. This is a conscious decision on our part. At the moment, we are focusing on mapping mechanisms from the normal world in the digital world – such as trust patterns.
At this point a quote, a sentence from the document on our core concepts:
"If you can't find an equivalent in the normal world for a technology or concept, or at least explain it entirely without a technical term, then it's a clear indication in our environment that it's a bad idea."