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Licensing & reuse of software and data

July 31st, 2011

Deciding on licensing and data distribution is always challenges where talking about data which are intrinsically personal: activity data. Privacy issues are of course relevant here. We cannot distribute openly, or even on proprietary basis, data that relate to users’ actions and personal data on our systems. Anonimisation approaches exist that are supposed to make users un-identifiable in the data. Such approaches however cannot be applied in UCIAD for two main reason:

  • Such anonimisation mechanisms are only garantied in very closed, controlled environment. In particular, they assume that it is possible to completely characterise the dataset, and that integration with other datasets will not happen. These are two assumption that we can’t apply on our data as it is always evolving (in ways that might make established parameters for anonimisation suddenly invalid) and they are meant to be integrated with other data.
  • The whole principle of the project is to distribute the data to the user it concerns, which means that the user is at the center of the data. Anonimising data related to one user, while giving it back to this user makes of course not sense. More generally, anonimisation mechanisms are based on aggregating data into abstracted or averaged values so that individual users disappear. This is obviously in contradiction with the approach taken in UCIAD.

The issue with licensing data in UCIAD is actually even more complicated: what licence to apply to data exported for a particular user? The ownership of the data is not even clear in this case. It is data collected and delivered by our systems, but that are produced out of the activities of the user. We believe that in this case, a particular type of license, that give control to the user on the distribution of their own data, but without opening it completely, is needed. This is an area that we will need to put additional work on, with possibly useful results coming out of the mydata project.

Of course, despite this very complicated issue, more generic components of UCIAD can be openly distributed. These include the UCIAD ontologies, as well as the source code of the UCIAD platform, manipulating data according to these ontologies.