Press release: EU project launched to give people back control over their data online

Tuesday 16th May 2017

New blockchain-based tools to change how we share information on the web

A new three-year European Commission-funded project (1) DECODE launched today to develop practical alternatives to how we manage our information on the internet. By creating and testing new blockchain-based tools (2), the objective of DECODE - or ‘DEcentralised Citizen Owned Data Ecosystem’ - is to give individuals greater control over their data, helping them keep it private or share it for the public good as they see fit.

The premise of the project is that the main channels through which we use the internet have been monopolised by a handful of big businesses that do not always serve individuals and communities fairly. In turn, data which could benefit society is locked away in silos and individuals have limited control over it. The project will run four public pilots - two in Barcelona and two Amsterdam - to test the new tools and to demonstrate the wider social value that can come as a result of people sharing their data differently.

DECODE will be delivered by a consortium of multidisciplinary partners - including, the Institut Municipal d'Informatica de Barcelona, Eurecat and the University of Catalonia from Spain, Amsterdam City Council, Dyne and the Waag Society in the Netherlands, Politecnico di Torino from Italy, CNRS from France, Arduino from Sweden, and innovation foundation Nesta, Thingful, ThoughtWorks and UCL from the UK.

The emerging research findings and source code of the DECODE tools, once developed, will be open and freely available on this website.

To keep updated on DECODE news and events, follow @decodeproject on Twitter.


For more information contact Kasia Murphy in Nesta’s press office on: 020 7438 2610/2543 or: 079 2980 0765,


  1. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020), it is a flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness.
  2. Blockchain is a technology which enables an exchange of money or other resources to happen without the need for a trusted middleman. Blockchains are digital records of all previous exchanges, meaning proof of ownership or provenance can be checked automatically and electronically to give trust to each side of the transaction.



Ernesto Lopez, Hardware Engineer, Arduino
“Our philosophy and experience with open source technology has been a key aspect for our participation in DECODE because of the advantages we provide for openness and transparency. Arduino’s consultancy role is to facilitate the system functionality by means of hardware and software integration. Our goal is to improve our skill set by providing a functional and secure hardware technology for the public good. We are glad to contribute our experience to DECODE because of its social reach and the important need for investment in the development of better technology for the people.”

David Laniado, Senior Researcher - Digital Humanities, Eurecat, Technology Centre of Catalonia
"Data sovereignty does not only imply the right to control who may access one's data - in our vision it also means that citizens have a chance to make sense and take advantage of the data they generate, both at the individual and collective level. Through the DECODE pilots, we want to give people back the ability to extract value from their data, instead of leaving it to big corporations who use 'big data' to achieve their business goals. At Eurecat we are excited to contribute to such an ambitious project, bringing our expertise in data anonymisation, analysis and visualisation. We aim to develop transparent algorithms and interfaces which will help to exploit aggregated data for public good and foster collective deliberation processes."

Francesca Bria, DECODE Coordinator, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer, Institut Municipal d'Informatica de Barcelona
"DECODE tackles one of the main challenges in the current digital economy, which is building technology that empowers citizens to own their data and share them as commons, thus protecting citizens' digital sovereignty. In Barcelona, through DECODE, we are committed to building a collaborative economy that is data centric - but where the data that is generated and gathered by citizens or by IOT/sensors is available for broader communal use, with the appropriate privacy protections. As a result, a mass of innovators, startups, SMEs, NGOs, cooperatives, and local communities will be able to take advantage of this data to build services that are most relevant to them and the wider community.​"

Mayo Fuster, DIMMONS director of research on collaborative economy at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC)
“Beyond tech and data-centric design, we will research how to incorporate into the DECODE platforms ethics like cooperative governance, gender perspective and environmental responsibility, as well as legal and economical sustainability aspects - which provide a commons framework at the different dimensions intervening in a platform based interaction. Mixing several methods, we are analysing existing commons platforms in order to design DECODE and provide policy recommendations.”

Eddie Copeland, Director of Government Innovation, innovation foundation Nesta
“DECODE is an ambitious project to give citizens back control of their online data. The ongoing litany of data breaches, government surveillance controversies and the monopolisation of personal data by a small number of giant firms is no longer sustainable. We need a new way for people to consciously protect and share their data. The potential to do so is huge; not only can individuals feel greater trust in the services and devices they use; they will also be able to share their data to support the growth of new social ventures, improve the functioning of cities and participate more in open, online democratic processes.”

Marco Ciurcina, Decode coordinator at Nexa Center for Internet & Society, Politecnico di Torino
"Nexa Center is involved in empowering citizens to control and own their data, through the creation of actionable legal and governance tools that enable disruptive commons-based business models. Models which are intrinsically respectful of privacy and digital sovereignty. Nexa Center is responsible for analysing the legal and ethical frameworks involved in the adoption of the DECODE technology, including the cases where the processing of personal data is involved. The main expected outcomes are the review of the legal sets of rules involved by the creation of digital commons through the use of the DECODE OS technology; the preparation of Guidelines to be practically used for the development of the DECODE OS, with particular attention to licensing tools and privacy measures; the definition of an initial set of smart rules to be adopted in the pilots according to their needs in line with the goal of fostering the creation of digital commons."

Moeen Khawaja, Chief Operating Officer, Thingful Limited
"Thingful is an IoT technology SME and the DECODE project is of significant strategic importance to us. We are working with world class technical, academic and institutional partners across Europe to build and deliver an alternative to the centralising cloud service paradigm and in the process, utilising and integrating cutting edge technologies with our functionalities to enhance our commercial appeal. Thingful is developing data entitlements for IoT and semantic ontology framework in the project and advancing the interworking of its component technologies for metadata publishing on a blockchain infrastructure. We are very excited about the prospects of developing and deploying in partnership with our consortium, a decentralised service capability right from the device edge to the service layer, in large scale pilots to be organised in Barcelona and Amsterdam."

Dave Elliman, Global Head of Technology, ThoughtWorks
“ThoughtWorks is a global technology consultancy with offices across Europe, including London, Munich and Barcelona. We are proud to be working alongside the distinguished consortium members of the DECODE project. At ThoughtWorks, we passionately believe that a person should have a greater understanding and control of their own data. DECODE resonates with our organisation, in particular the advancement of technology to further positive social change. As an organisation, we have over 20 years of world leading lean delivery experience and a thriving tribe of expert technologists who all care deeply about the contribution they can make as individuals towards the success of humanitarian projects such as this. We very much look forward to playing our part as the Technical Coordinators for the project and bringing our industry leadership and experience to bear on such a vital and ambitious mission.”