Commons Data Centers

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= "Commons Data Centers: Creating new data centers for big data that enable to make the collection and use of big data democratically accountable and to administer data in the interest of the public".

For details see


Berliner Gazette:

"We wish to engage in a thought experiment: what if big data, which has so much potential but also poses so many threats, could be governed and owned collectively by the public, rather than by corporations or state agencies? What would such commons data centers look like, and how could they be brought into reality?

It will be important here to define what is meant by “public” as the word has very different meanings in different contexts. Typically, we understand it as “in the trust of the state,” which is in this case problematic because we have learned not to trust the state with our data because of fears of surveillance and complicity with corporate interests (though there are important differences between states and governments).

Beyond that, we think there is a very important analytic and political distinction to be made between the ideas of the “public” and the “commons”. Related to this is also the discussion about the nature of “rights,” such as the right to privacy. When we talk about rights, we often implicitly imagine that some authority can or should enforce and protect rights, usually the state. But the same problems apply as above: can we trust it to do so?

One of the most important questions or challenges in this respect is how we would be able to prevent a new administrative elite from establishing itself in this area. We would also need to determine which principles of knowledge transfer, information security, and information sharing might be applied.

A further challenge is the fact that “decentralizing big data” by organizing it in a multitude of small “commons administration units” would not automatically guarantee that big data would not be used in a detrimental way or made available to third parties for their private interests." (



– If the data are administered in the commons, we must make sure that they are only utilized “in the public interest” and that no individual freedoms are infringed. This will mean, among other things:

– There will always have to be a democratic and transparent decision-making process to determine what to do with certain data in individual cases.

– There will have to be clear statutory rules that stipulate what constitutes an admissible use of the “data” and what does not. These rules must also form the basis for the debates that the commons administration units hold for decision-making.

– The members of the administration units must be elected. The example of the Berlin Round Table on Energy (Berliner Energietisch) and its plan for the public administration of a future public utility in Berlin (Berliner Stadtwerke) shows how this can be done according to a model of grass-roots democracy.

– The specific organizational structure of a “commons administration unit” must be based on the principle that the individuals actually generating or producing the data on the internet must also be able to share democratically in the decision-making on how these data are used. This would take the form of a “producer-user democracy” in the field of data." (