[Trusted Web] Research: What is the “Trusted Web”?

The “Trusted Web White Paper (Draft) Ver1.0” was recently released by the Trusted Web Promotion Council. This is a draft of a project that aims for social implementation around 2030, exploring a “third way” for the ideal digital market that is neither “reliance on a handful of mega-cap companies” nor a “surveillance society” in the “Medium-term Outlook Report on Digital Market Competition” compiled by the Cabinet Secretariat Digital Market Competition Division. As one of the measures to materialize this social implementation, the project proposes a “Trusted Web,” a decentralized system that changes the way data governance is carried out through technology.

(1) Distortions that occur in Internet and the Web

(2) Rise of the Attention Economy

(3) Social Implementation of Trust

In this article, we will describe the “Trusted Web” focusing on this “third way”.

This is because the direction of the “Third Way” has many aspects in sync with the “democratization of data” that Jasmy, supported by Tokyo Token, is aiming for.

The following is a quote from the minutes of the first meeting of the Trusted Web Promotion Council, in which Mr. Ota of DataSign Inc., who attended the meeting, commented on the goals of this project in a simple way.

“The web leaves some uneasiness to the public. Breaking this down, when we focus on the individuals, we don’t know whether the data is used for ourselves, or anybody else. For entities, they are unnoticed even if the data is exploited by IT platforms, or if someone is taking control over them, and this is not the original philosophy of web. I want to resolve this public sense, like the feeling of being played around in the palm of someone’s hand, and create a proper web that anyone can access to information and express themselves. This is not becoming an IT platform and taking data, but to think in a human-centric, individual-centric style. We need an approach to bring together data to individuals. On the other hand, it’s still vague how this method will generate revenue to companies in this current capitalism. I think this is a situation where we don’t know what to do with the absence of a cutting-edge individual-centric application which will replace GAFA dominance in the centralized web. Under this circumstance, I think it is necessary for this Trusted Web Promotion Council to communicate, let’s create this kind of web, there should be this kind of infrastructure that anyone can challenge, and that there are such best practices. (Summary of the Trusted Web Promotion Council (1st Meeting) October 15, 2020 (Thursday) 10:00–12:00: From the comments of Yuichi Ota, Representative Director of DataSign Inc.)

Distortions that occur on the Internet and the Web

The “Internet and the Web” is a social communication infrastructure that has provided us with many benefits. Currently, various distortions are emerging in the applications that run on this infrastructure from the perspectives of privacy and data distribution. Both the JASMY Project and the Trusted Web Promotion Council are aware of the same problem: platform operators and users are having a hard time dealing with this distortion, which can be said to be a natural consequence of the current server-client model. The “Trusted Web” is also a new foundation for solving individual issues that arise from the proposition that if data-centered social activities continue in the current state, this distortion will be further amplified.

Now, what exactly is the distortion?

The published white paper lists the following six issues.

1) Authenticity and reliability of data transmitted in various forms: Who will ensure the reliability of the massive information generated and transmitted by SNS, sensor devices, etc., and in what form?

2) Privacy: To what extent should data privacy be protected in a world where information integration is possible? For example, data collected from various points of contact from the user can be tagged by the platform operator, and a fixed personal code can be used to identify the user without the user’s awareness.

3) Balancing privacy with public interest: This is always the question, to what extent do we prioritize the public interest or privacy in data? For example, if we provide citizens’ data to the police for preventing the spread of the pandemic, how further can they use them?

4) Industrial data siloed: Medical charts are a good example. Individual hospitals have their own data format of patient records, but they are only utilized and functioned in their own hospital. In short, it is difficult for hospitals to collaborate with each other to share medical records and create new value. If we are going to redesign the infrastructure for the individual, what is the ideal way to share data? There is also the inherent problem of Open Closed Principle.

5) Sustainability of the ecosystem: This is a concern about unfair practices that distort free competition, such as data oligopolies, winner-takes-all attribute in terms of profit, and unfair treatment of business partners by so-called mega-cap IT platforms, as well as the risk that the social infrastructure will collapse at once if we rely too much on these companies.

6) Corporate Governance: The advancement of digitalization has made decision-making a black box (whether intentionally or unintentionally), making it difficult for authorities such as ministries to verify and audit companies for protecting third-party organizations, stakeholders, and users.

The Trusted Web proposes several avenues to resolve these issues (distortions). The main ones are “to control access to data related to oneself from others” and “to establish a mechanism (infrastructure) for consensus making based on a clear intention between the user and the provider.”

Rise of the Attention Economy

It is easier to explain this above by referring to the “Attention Economy” mentioned in the white paper. The “Attention Economy” is an idea where you create business by attracting interest (attention) through emailing to potential customers, POPUPs on the browsers, etc. This has been the mainstream in Internet advertising for a long time now, and the screen of your device is always under a “competition for attention”. The most important edge to have in this competition is to understand how much information you can get from customers who are likely to buy your product or service. This is because the best way to attract the attention of your customers is to learn their emotions (to know this, you need to analyze their actions and behavior). So, how to they? In the race to acquire data, it is a matter of how many touchpoints companies reach in order to contact with customers to collect data. In example, when you use Internet services frequently, the touchpoints of contact with companies are probably browsers, search engines, social networking services, e-commerce sites, etc. This is the reason why mega-cap IT platforms are currently dominating data from customers.

Thus, data collected from a wide variety of customer are tagged and linked to the data of the same person, and then the behavior and actions are analyzed. In other words, providing effective information based on the knowledge of the customer’s emotions. This could be beneficial to customers, but there is no mechanism between us and the company to explicitly state that data is being collected, integrated, and analyzed, or any smooth data transfer agreement process… For these reasons, our data has been left with a “feeling of being played around in the palm of someone’s hand” (Mr. Ota). We are moving forward to replace this “feeling,” for anyone to take control of their own data by understanding who they are providing it to, for what purpose, and by making decisions about whether to provide it. Obviously, this requires an agreement-building foundation and a governance mechanism to support the data transmission between the sender and receiver.

So how do we implement this?

The ideology is “Trust.”

Fmm.. But what does that mean? What is “Trust”?

Social Implementation of Trust

This word “trust”. In the context of explaining smart contracts on the blockchain, the word “trustless” is frequently used. This refers to a world or concept in which “even people you don’t know at all, can be trusted to behave as you intend them to. Although it is an overused term, the vending machine on the side of the road is a good example of “trustless” machine. You put your money in, and the drink comes out. Everyone believes in the behavior of vending machines. The white paper describes this attribute as follows.

“The high confidence to which they believe that the counterparty or opponent will behave as expected without confirming the actual facts.”

A highly trusted environment. This is an environment the cost of confirming everything during skepticism is lowered, the risk of the entire system is shared among the parties involved, and the senders and receivers of data, like the vending machine, behave as expected by both parties with high precision even if the other party is unknown to them. It can also be understood as a transparent agreement making process, in which the agreement process and status are verified by several entities, at a genuine democratic behavior.

And so, what is so called a “Trusted Web” is a project installing to the internet the “Trust” structure and functions that can be applied to various social activities in the digital society, and to reconstruct a social infrastructure that creates new value for companies and individuals.


Digital Markets Competition Division “Trusted Web Promotion Council”: