Recent controversies over access and processing of personal data have highlighted the significance of the sovereignty of individuals over their personal data and are leading to new paradigms for application development based on personal online datastores (pods), where individuals have complete control over which applications can gain access to their personal data and for what purpose. Emerging frameworks and ecosystems, such as SOLID and the one by Dataswift, support the development of such decentralised applications which, when granted access by the individuals concerned, can access the data stored in pods to provide services to users in areas such as health and well- being, social networking, and collaborative authoring. However, this decentralisation presents significant performance challenges when searching or querying data stored in pods on a large scale, which is critical to fulfil the potential of such applications. 

The EPSRC-funded ESPRESSO project (“Efficient Search over Personal Repositories – Secure and Sovereign”) researches, develops and evaluates decentralised algorithms, meta-information data structures, and indexing techniques to enable large-scale data search across personal online datastores, taking into account varying access rights and caching requirements. It is a joint project between the University of Southampton and Birkbeck, University of London.

The project will collaborate with NExT++ centre in Singapore and with the SOLID and HAT project teams. We actively engage with the academic community and industrial stakeholders through dedicated events. The project’s findings will inform current research in distributed systems, databases, the digital economy and cybersecurity, as well as the design of innovative decentralised applications, and will help to address the policy challenges relating to data sovereignty and privacy.