Frequently Asked Questions

What is MyDataCan?

MyDataCan offers you affiliated apps to live a better life and puts you in control of your information. When you use regular apps or web-based services, companies collect information about you and share your information with other companies and organizations, and those companies and organizations in turn, may share your information further. You can’t know who knows what about you. 

MyDataCan is a different data sharing paradigm. Apps and web-based services that are affiliated with MyDataCan put you in the center of data sharing. They put a copy of your information in your own private storage on MyDataCan. You can then view your information, delete it, or share it with other apps or services. 

You can also “privatize” your information on MyDataCan. The privatized option allows you to encrypt your information with a passphrase that you know but that is not stored on the MyDataCan platform. Privatized information is unreadable on the platform. You can reverse the process using your same privately held passphrase to make the information visible on the platform again.

How long will MyDataCan retain information?

Information stored in a person’s data can is under the control of the person. The information will remain in a person’s data can until they delete it, their account is terminated, a machine failure occurs or the platform closes. 

Who is able to access my information on MyDataCan?

A person has complete access to her own data, as available in her personal data can. They may share their information with apps affiliated with MyDataCan. If so, MyDataCan describes the kind of data each app requires for use. 

What kind of location information is on MyDataCan?

MyDataCan has affiliated apps that store location information into the user’s personal data can. An example of location information is GPS.

Is my information secure on MyDataCan?

Yes. Information storage and handling on MyDataCan complies with the requirements for “Level 4 data security” under the Harvard University Information Policy.

How do apps get affiliated with MyDataCan?

An App developer must apply to the MyDataCan Governance Committee to have an app actually operate on MyDataCan with real users. Apps are not allowed to further share user data. An app may only have permission for specific data sharing operations on MyDataCan. No approved app is granted permission to all data sharing operations. Permission decisions are narrow and specific to the service that the app provides to MyDataCan users. The MyDataCan App Center lists all approved apps and the permissions granted to each app. A MyDataCan user can elect to use or not use any app on the Platform.

What do you know about real-world data sharing?

Our team did earlier work to document flows of personal data. See for examples and details.

What are you doing to combat COVID?

MyDataCan is providing a priority for apps that store location and symptom information into a person's private storage on MyDataCan. These are the kinds of data that can help a human contact tracer know whether the person is at risk of infection to COVID-19, or may have infected others. An individual can decide whether to share this information with human contact tracers, independent of its collection.

Why does having a personal copy of my data under my control make a big difference to today's data sharing?

The MyDataCan team believes that over time, the copy of personal information under the control of the individual will be more comprehensive and correct than ad hoc information acquired about the person from other sources. Eventually, the majority of those seeking data on the individual will ask for the person's permission to access part of the person's information from their private storage.

Why is there an emphasis on location data?

MyDataCan will expand to include many forms of personal information. In light of COVID-19 and the need for effective contact tracing, MyDataCan provides a priority to apps and services that share location with the person. If the person then decides to share that information with human contact tracers, it can be used to determine whether the person is at risk of infection or may have infected others.

How does MyDataCan's approach to contact tracing compare to the Apple/Google GAEN approach?

Anonymous contact tracing apps that operate under the Apple/Google GAEN platform bypass the critical decision-making role of human contact tracers, and as a result, tend to introduce a large number of false reports that can panic or falsely alarm a community. In comparison, MyDataCan makes it possible for people to elect to share the minimal information needed with a human contact tracer on a just-in-time need-to-know basis, as relevant to a particular positive test case of COVID-19. The human contact tracer reviews the specifics of physical interactions with the positive tested person to make an informed decision about the actual risk of infection in an encounter. The anonymity feature of the GAEN platform makes it impossible for human contact tracers to play this important role.