What is Microsoft's Project Bali?

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 3, 2019

Data collection on the Internet is a one-sided deal for the most part: users reveal data willingly or unwillingly, and companies store the data, process it, and even share it without giving users much control over any of that.

While large Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, or Facebook attempt to please privacy advocates and governments when it comes to data collection, storing, and management, it is fair to say that users are not very much in control when it comes to their own data.

Microsoft Bali was revealed to the public earlier today by Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet. From what we know so far, it is a Microsoft Research project that is in private beta at the time.

microsoft bali privacy

Invited users may join Project Bali, and anyone else may request an invite code. Whether there is a chance for regular users to get in is unknown, but I would say it is slim.

So, what is Project Bali? The homepage does not reveal much but the About page offers some information on the project.

According to the description there, it is based on a privacy concept called Inverse Privacy mentioned in a Research Paper which anyone may access here. Inverse Privacy refers to personal information that is private to an individual but out of control of that individual.

Your interactions with various institutions -- employers, municipalities, financial institutions, health providers, police, toll roads operators, grocery chains, etc -- create numerous items of personal information, e.g., shopping receipts and refilled prescriptions

Due to progress in technology, institutions have become much better than you in recording
data. As a result, shared data decays into inversely private.

Companies, the government, and other individuals may own data that is valuable to the individual;

Project Bali tries to tackle Inverse Privacy through the creation of  a "new personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them".  All data that belongs to a user should belong to that user according to the Project Bali description.

Project Bali allows users to "visualize, manage, control, share and monetize the data". Bali offers the following properties according to the description:

It can be associated with a physical user through a verified identity
It is secure and trustworthy
It provides complete transparency into a user’s data
It ensures that a user’s data is not used without permission
It ensures that a user’s data is not misused

Nothing else is revealed about Project Bali at this point in time. Since it is a Microsoft Research project, there is a chance that it will never be integrated in Microsoft's ecosystem or made available to governments and companies. If third-parties would use something created by Microsoft would remain to be seen as well.

Closing Words

Whether Microsoft's Project Bali will become more than a research project remains to be seen. There is certainly demand from users when it comes to control over user data. A centralized option to view, manage, and delete all data that companies have on users would certainly be appreciated by many.

Now You: What is your take on Project Bali?

What is Microsoft's Project Bali?
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What is Microsoft's Project Bali?
Microsoft's Project Bali is an invite-only research project that attempts to deal with the issue of inverse privacy.
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  1. Huxleys dystopian paradise said on January 7, 2019 at 1:47 am

    The corporatocrats behind the giant corporations are slowly pushing (more exactly, they are using a technique called “nudging”) people in small unconscious steps into submitting their rights to their own data, biometrics, communication devices, money etc. due to no one reads the massive legal fine prints, and even if they did the vast majority will not have the slightest competence to comprehend it, and the day when Western Worlds sovereign countries are abolishing their own rights and merges with the NWO/OWG, ie. the Corporation owned by a few PRIVATE people, the ordinary citizens will find out they have suddenly become PROPERTIES of these corporatocrats and unknowingly given up all personal sovereign rights, that is the day humans loses their last true liberty.

    Is this good or not, I don’t know yet, but one things is for sure, we are living in some of the most interesting times.

  2. Anonymous said on January 6, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    If Bali is not politically and architecturally decentralised its merely be another project PRISM. Sadly I suspect behind the scenes maneuvering will probably see it adopted by large corporations who will foist it upon their employees.

  3. Dave said on January 5, 2019 at 2:46 am

    My whole issue with big data is the fact that someone makes a ton of money with it and I don’t get any.

    Unless you remove yourself from modern society, you can’t stop them from gathering data on you.

    I really don’t have a problem with that, it’s when that data is used to make them richer and me poorer that I get pissed off.

  4. AnorKnee Merce said on January 4, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Fyi, M$ also has the already-working Windows Core OS project – a modular OS that will likely be the base OS running all types of devices by using different shells or UI packages on top. Devices = smartphones/tablets, desktops/laptops, gaming consoles, IOT, routers, office Hubs, etc.

  5. superwack said on January 4, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Let me try to untie your confusion. You missed the the political purpose and moral goal of one free software organization (also advocate) has to burden (In Mozilla case, they claim to defend the so-called free and open web). I didn’t mean Linux not free, but their focuses are rather different:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Foundation#Goals (mainly concerned with business)

    Thus for sure, you must take Linux as the example to push your point. And this is also one of the reasons why M$ gradually “loves” Linux recent years (they’d rather based their new Edge on Chromium instead of FF which are both open source). As for Google, they have hugged Linux already long time ago and at the same time, they’ve been working on Fuchsia for years which is under full controll by them and will be friendly to advertisers but users’ personal data and their privacy to replace Android’s market place.

    If you really want to get to the bottom, you should seek the guidance from this great man first, who criticized Mozilla before and felt disappointed with them as well:


    And if you just disagree with him, that’s OK, it’s your freedom.

  6. Steve#99 said on January 4, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    I have absolute zero trust in corporations. I have zero belief in, “It is secure and trustworthy”, “Data is not misused / not used without permission”, and “Provides complete transparency”. Call me cynical and jaded but since Windows 10, I have zero trust in MS and theorize those characteristics cited are probably the opposite of MS’ actual intent with Bali.

    To make matters worse, anytime a corporation has our “verified identity”, we loose. That corporation can now tie all of our private data to our irl ID; enabling a much fuller dossier to be used against us as a real person. Tis’ why I never use gmail due to the mobile phone requirement; for lack of a more accurate term, it’s privacy rape.

    I’ll finish off this lovely post by adding this bit of civic cynicism. Just like inverse privacy, corporations have forced us into an inverse citizenry: where corporations and billionaires now hold the rights once granted to all of the citizenry (ref Citibank Plutonomy Memo and the Princeton Studies). It is the reason this so called inverse privacy is allowed to go on. It is granted because of bribes to crooked politicians and is also why net neutrality is dead. It is why your ISP can now tap your lines in the US. Fact is, 20 years ago the management of these corporations would have been imprisoned for this immoral, once illegal wiretapping. Now, they not only make us pay for their very faulty services & software, but they wiretap the world, taking away citizenry’s right to privacy – a fundamental human right.


    Mr Sunshine

  7. Brain Tomey said on January 4, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Drop this stupid Bali distraction – just disable and remove all telemetry gathering in Windows 10. Done.

  8. AnorKnee Merce said on January 4, 2019 at 10:50 am

    The BIG question is, can you trust M$ to guard your private data.? The answer is likely a big NO.!

    It’s like trusting the fox to guard your hens, chicks and eggs.

    Best to trust only yourself in such matters.

    Win 10 has forced auto-collection of Telemetry & Data = could be a spyware for the NSA.

    Google-Search for Microsoft, NSA and Prism.

  9. gwacks said on January 4, 2019 at 8:29 am

    It can be associated with a physical user through a verified identity.
    (more precise targeting)

    It is secure and trustworthy
    (for business of advertising)

    It provides complete transparency into a user’s data
    (for perfect spying)

    It ensures that a user’s data is not used without permission
    (no problem for national governments because “We must comply with their local laws…even it’s a dictatorship.”)

    It ensures that a user’s data is not misused
    (but used to be monetized for a few cents, that’s the right use we think. One drop of water better than nothing.)

    My conclusion: BLACK MIRROR, which is just another form of deception and squeezing from their users.

  10. william said on January 4, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Do not forget who owns Microsoft.
    Do your your own research about his father (of William Jr.) and his scope with the world (eugenics).


    1. John Fenderson said on January 4, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      @william: No single person “owns” Microsoft all by themselves, but the single person who owns more than anybody else isn’t Gates, it’s Ballmer.

      1. John Two Rivers crossing said on January 25, 2019 at 4:41 am

        We knew what he meant. Gates was the beginning, the founding father and the head owner of the company.

  11. Global Police State said on January 4, 2019 at 4:42 am

    Microsoft always seems to be one step behind what people are actually thinking. It’s like they came up with this 3 years ago back when data collection seemed cool and trendy thanks to Google/CIA brainwashing. People are starting to realize what all the autoupdates, “telemetry” and seemingly harmless “personalized ads” are all about.

  12. supergirl said on January 4, 2019 at 2:26 am

    Well,since Microsoft has come so late to the great Privacy Rape of Humanity
    maybe their best course of action is to negate Facebook & especially Google’s
    great advantage & largest source of income.

    I would welcome this.
    But only if it means the destruction of all data bases, outside of medical & law enforcement.

    It would be the first time Microsoft has acted in the interest
    of their customers since win98se IMO.

    The only way organized evil is ever stopped is by organized good opposing it.

    How has linux survived for decades without dis-respecting all
    that is good & decent, I ask you?

  13. Some Anon said on January 4, 2019 at 1:21 am

    Project Bali allows users to “visualize, manage, control, share *and monetize* the data”

    Emphasis mine. That’s what’s going on here, they think “hey, maybe if we cough up some trivial sum of money, we can gather consent for data gathering (and data selling) even more intrusive than what we already do, and our legal behind will be covered!” My prediction is that this either won’t be launched to the public on advice from their Legal Eagles, or will backfire at an early stage, as people sign up for it just to be able to say to Microsoft and any of their affiliates in this “I don’t give anyone permission to use any of my data for any reason”. Either that or they’ll just state in the fine print that EU citizens need not apply.

  14. Anonymous said on January 4, 2019 at 12:34 am

    I like how it says “monetize the data” and “ensures that a user’s personal data is not misused” like they’re going to build a personal data version of Youtube, complete with poorly planned social network integration, automated flagging and an adpocalypse.

  15. o_O said on January 3, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    Can I forbid future data collection and purge everything via this Bali thiny?

  16. crambie said on January 3, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    MS firsts needs to give the option to stop all spying in Windows and Office. A pretty easy task compared to this but they don’t want to. There was the report the other month of them collecting up to 25k data points if you use Office with full telemetry or if you use it online. Don’t tell me that’s just to improve the product.

    1. gwacks said on January 4, 2019 at 8:22 am

      Nope. As an once traditional commercial software company, they don’t need to stop all syping in Windoze 10 really, but just make their products free of charge first if they decide to live by mining user’s data as the EvilCorp at last.

  17. Anonymous said on January 3, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    Microsoft, developer of the infamous Windows 10 spyware, wants to create a centralized sensitive data store that’s “secure and trustworthy”, that “ensures that a user’s data is not used without permission” and that “ensures that a user’s data is not misused”.


    1. Mark said on January 4, 2019 at 1:08 am

      Well said. My 1st guess is that they will be using something like this to monetize a Lifelock-esque scenario for data. Their own pool of data, unbeknownst to the majority of users, would show a good amount of information…but all of it=no. The ‘big’ data collectors of the world will be holding their collected data closely for their own current/future use…it’s too valuable (and alarming) for them to simply release &/or share.

  18. John Fenderson said on January 3, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    “What is your take on Project Bali?”

    I like the goals, but since there isn’t any other information aside from the goals, it’s impossible to form an opinion. The devil is in the details.

    For me, the primary thing will be: where is my personal data stored? If it’s not on my own machine, then it will be much harder for me to trust it.

    1. No said on January 3, 2019 at 11:20 pm

      The only goal is to create the illusion you have control over your data, which to be fair, should be opt-in to begin with.

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