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= "DECODE provides tools that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share it for the public good".


Consortium linked to EU research project, with partners including Amsterdam and Barcelona


David Meyer:

"Barcelona's new approach is to "recognise that the citizens are the ones that own the data," Bria said. Along with Amsterdam and a dozen other partners from the worlds of academia, tech and consultancy, the Catalan capital is involved in consortium called Decode that has €5 million worth of funding from the European Commission – and that could end up stimulating genuinely grassroots rivals to Silicon Valley's "sharing economy" platforms.

"The citizen gets to decide what data they want to donate, and on what terms"

"The citizen gets to decide what data they want to donate, and on what terms. Data is not centralised in the hands of very few players," Bria said of Decode's aims. "This is the first step to creating next-generation collaborative economy platforms that are more distributed and sustainable."

The project may also find a way through one of the thorniest issues about the smart city: privacy. Much of the information that powers smart cities is personal data that comes from and can identify individuals, particularly when data from different sources is correlated. If, for example, citizens put sensors in their homes to measure noise levels or air quality, they will first have to get over the fact that these sensors might capture information about them too. So the consortium is considering the use of blockchain technology, together with encryption, to provide a fine-grained permissions system for accessing and controlling data.

"We are implementing Decode so that the citizens can say, 'OK, I only want to share this data with my community, or with the city, because if the city gets this data, they can do something about the noise level', Bria said." (


With Denis Rojo:

"* What is that EU project about?

The DECODE project is the first ever H2020 research project granted by the European Commission in 2016 to research on distributed ledger technologies (blockchain) and today the EC considers it a flagship project within its portfolio of digital innovations.

I'm DECODE's technical coordinator and Francesca Bria is the principal investigator of the project, which includes pilots in the most advanced “smart cities” of Europe, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Our project provides tools to manage private identities and smart-city sensor data in a decentralised and privacy-aware fashion to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few platform operators.

We thought DECODE was necessary because of pressing concerns about the commodification of people's data by global monopolies: a few companies (the so-called FAGMA) control all data exchanges and make huge profits from them. We look at the centralisation of the internet as a process that slows innovation and challenges the potential of this technology to revolutionise society and the economy in a pluralistic manner.

What we want is a Europe where strong digital rights give people full control over their data, maintaining privacy and trust in the systems they use. We also believe Europe should provide a level playing field enabling social entrepreneurs and free software and open hardware developers to implement innovative approaches and applications, opening up new economic and social perspectives.

Our dream is to preserve the digital sovereignty of European and all other citizens, preventing unauthorised usage of their personal data, on clouds, social networks and the Internet of Things.

* What are DECODE's achievements so far?

With DECODE we have achieved to develop a full stack of tools to run a distributed computing platform and ledger technology featuring end-to-end encryption and privacy by design, something that lowers the liability of any company operating with private data by making it easier to respect the GDPR with less work.

Among the tools we have developed are a free and open source box to scan European (and all RFID compatible) passports using a simple Raspberry Pi box and a webcam, to produce zero-knowledge proof credentials.

The most impressive scientific achievement consists of a core component (Zenroom) allowing to write smart-contracts and business rules in simple human language (Zencode). This is a very secure virtual machine executing operations based on what is written in these contracts and the main goal is that of facilitating the review of code by people who don't know programming languages, but have equally important background knowledge of legal terms. For instance, a data protection officer designated according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is able to review in great detail the conditions of data as operated and stored even in complex decentralised computing setups.

Also the “Coconut” academic paper with the rather complex title “Threshold Issuance Selective Disclosure Credentials with Applications to Distributed Ledgers” by colleagues at UCL is a new groundbreaking scientific paper leveraging “zero-knowledge proof” cryptography based on elliptic curves. If this sounds all too complicated let it just be enough to say that the paper caught the attention of Facebook to the point that the company acqui-hired our colleagues to work on the controversial Libra project." (


Decode in Barcelona

Francesca Bria:

"The city of Barcelona wants to give citizens greater control over how government agencies and businesses use their data and information.

This year, the city will be running a pilot of a “Blockchain-based decentralised data infrastructure for citizens to own their data”, Francesca Bria, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer, tells GovInsider. With the platform, Barcelona wants to make it “very clear that the citizens are the one that decides how their data should be shared, with whom and on what basis,” Bria says.

The €5 million (~US$5.6 million) project, called DECODE, will involve pilots in Barcelona and Amsterdam. Bria, who was speaking at the Innovation Growth Lab 2017 Global Conference in Barcelona last week, shares with GovInsider how Barcelona is giving citizens data sovereignty through this project; providing open access to technologies; and fostering a digital economy.

The platform allows citizens to share only what they are comfortable and willing to share. “It’s about what data they want to donate,” Bria says. “People will put a lot of personal data: what they like, what they don’t like, location data, their political views, social media data,” she believes.

Citizens are now “much more aware” of the value that their data holds, Bria says, and because of that, they may willingly donate data to the city “to improve mobility, to improve education, to improve services.”

On the flipside, Bria points out that “maybe [citizens] are not so keen” for their data to fall into the hands of insurance or advertising companies, for use in unintended ways. She is herself a strong advocate for open access and digital rights.

The platform is to ensure that “[citizens] are in control, not the government, so this remains citizen-owned data”, according to Bria." (