Microsoft is reportedly building a new tool called Bali that is aimed at providing users with more control of the data collected about them. Bali is currently in early stages of development and available to select users in private beta testing. A webpage confirming the existence of the tool was found hosted on Microsoft Azure platform but seems to have been taken down since. The webpage allowed authorised users to sign in and manage their data and even seemed to offer a way to get a code to test the tool, but it is unclear if anyone outside Microsoft managed to get a code to access the tool.
Microsoft’s Bali was first revealed in a tweet by a user called Longhorn, who described it as “a project that can delete all your connection and account information (inverseprivacyproject).” The Twitter handle did not share any other information about the project. However, the about section of the Project Bali webpage (no longer available) noted that Bali is a “new personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them….”.
“The bank will enable users to store all data (raw and inferred) generated by them. It will allow the user to visualise, manage, control, share and monetise the data,” it added.
According to a report in ZDNet, Bali is a part of Microsoft Research incubation effort and based on Inverse Privacy, a concept that was introduced by Microsoft researchers Yuri Gurevich, Efim Hudis, and Jeannette M. Wing.
According to the report, Inverse Privacy is a phenomenon when an entity has personal information on you and that information is not available to you. The Microsoft researchers argue that the companies will share this information to the individual users because it is in their business interest. With increased data collection from everyone including governments and businesses on individuals worldwide, there has been an outcry for solutions that give users control of their data.
Many tech companies have already started offering downloads of personal data collected by them on individual users, but it seems Microsoft is looking for ways to go even further and offer the people even more control of their data, not just the ability to see what exactly a particular company has on you. With the likes of Facebook facing backlash over several data privacy scandals in 2018, Microsoft should certainly see some business incentive in giving more control to the users over their personal data.
Since the Bali webpage reportedly noted that the project is still in the initial stage, it is unclear when exactly the normal consumers will have access to it or how long it might take. Also, not every Microsoft Research project ends up being a reality.