Details have emerged surrounding Project Bali, an apparent attempt by Microsoft to give its users better control over the use, and monetisation, of their personal data.

First publicised by ZDNet, Project Bali appears to be a Microsoft Research initiative which is public enough to have a readily-accessible web portal but not so public that anyone has come forward to confirm they have received a code in order to sign up for an account. In documentation included in the site, the project is described as a 'personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them,' including providing functionality to 'visualise, manage, control, share, and monetize' said data.

The Project Bali page contains a link to a Microsoft Research paper on Inverse Privacy (PDF warning), written by Yuri Gurevich, Efim Hudis, and Jeanette Wing. In it, the researchers outline the concept: 'An item of your personal information is inversely private if some party has access to it but you do not. In a nutshell, the inverse privacy problem is unjustified inaccessibility to you of your inversely private information.'

The paper proposes a 'market-based solution' to the issue, an argument that 'companies will share back personal information because it will be in their business interests,' while also describing 'money to be made in solving the inverse privacy problem. As sharing back personal information gains ground, the need will arise to mine large amounts of customers' personal data on their behalf. The benefits of owning and processing this data will grow, especially as the data involves financial and quality-of-life domains. We anticipate the emergence of a new market for companies that compete in processing large sets of private data for the benefits of the data producers, i.e. consumers.'

The argument appears to have convinced Microsoft to set up Project Bali as an experiment into becoming just one of those companies seeking to profit from the inverse privacy market, and well it might: Microsoft's Azure cloud platform is a popular choice for data processing projects, while the company's own analytics programmes built into its operating systems generate a vast wealth of data from users already - in some cases, a little too much.

The Project Bali site, which described itself as a private beta, appears to have been taken down since ZDNet's report was published, while Microsoft has not commented on the apparent leak nor its plans for the project.

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