LDF 2014: The Alternet
The Alternet is a proposal for an alternative internet modelled as a civic network. Conceived by British design student Sarah Gold, the Alternet promotes a "fair-trade" approach to data by allowing citizens to own their personal information through a series of Creative Commons-style licenses.
Gold imagines that the Alternet will exist in parallel with today's TCP/IP-based system, and would be powered by community-run mesh networks. The project – which was exhibited as part of the Restless Futures exhibition at the London Design Festival – was awarded a Future Pioneers award from UK charity the Design Council.
"Data is becoming the most valuable resource," says Gold, who speculates that home-monitoring services such as the Nest home thermostat will soon become free in return for the data they harvest about people's lifestyles and living habits. "The majority of the (few) design projects that deal with privacy offer darknet solutions," she told online media publication Imperica. "I wanted to investigate a transparent, civic alternative."
Following last year's US National Security Agency scandal, products designed to help consumers regain their digital privacy are experiencing a surge in popularity. Privacy was a hot topic at this year's Mobile World Congress, which witnessed the launch of the super-secure Blackphone, designed by global encryption firm Silent Circle.
Look out for more reporting on this year's London Design Festival, coming soon to Stylus.