Blockchain’s Distributed Ledger Technology Looks to Be the Answer to Modern Privacy Concerns
The proliferation of social media has to lead to an ever decreasing amount of privacy for the average internet user. Many who grew up with the internet bemoan the lack of privacy that the early internet had as a default.
Every single website will put a cookie on your computer to track what you do, and the biggest culprit are the new media companies such as Google and Facebook that rely on showing you extremely targetted adverts that they would not be able to offer if they did not have as much information as they do now
The question many have been asking themselves for the last few years is simple. Is there a way for people to take control of their information in an age where everything is tracked with such precision? Just as many people believe that blockchain offers an immutable answer to this question and that it is the only way for the average user to take full control of their online presence.
Other believe this is a pipe-dream and say that there is no way blockchain can be used to take back control fully. There is a middle way, a compromise that can be seen between these two opposing views.
What is privacy in this day and age?
Privacy means different things to different people. The privacy that many think they want has never existed at all. We have data security – is your data safe? You have a choice – only giving your data to authorized organizations for authorized uses.
You might want to give Spotify your music tastes, as they curate playlists based on your preferences, but you might not want that same information being available to marketers who would use it to build a profile of you and use music that makes you feel a certain way to influence you in your buying habits.
The second part is user side privacy, a notion that is noticeably absent in today's world. We do not have any choice in who collects our data. Facebook and Google know where we have been and how long we stay in certain places. They can build extremely detailed profiles based on what you search for, where you go for holidays, how long you stay at work and numerous other factors.
The first part is data security, which is also a big part of privacy. Prior to digital photos, your personal collection could still be stolen if someone had an incentive to do it. It is just a lot easier these days with the advent of cloud services and digital-only photos.
If there were incriminating photos in the past, they could be destroyed and the negatives burned. Today all you need to do is track down all copies and delete them which is easier said than done.
What could blockchain then offer with regards to these two aspects of personal privacy?
The first and foremost thing to remember about blockchain technology is that it is immutable. Once data is written on the blockchain, it can never be erased. This means that as far as the European Union's GDPR guidelines are concerned, blockchain is an illegal way to store personal data.
If data cannot be removed, deleted or destroyed, then it may not even be collected in the first place. The so-called “right to be forgotten” is not possible with blockchain technology.
This shows us that blockchain can be great for security, but bad for privacy. If you want to delete embarrassing data from your teenage years, this would not be possible with a blockchain based privacy control platform.
However, there is a security aspect to consider. No one else would have the ability to access your data. This is important because of the security aspect. Certain segments of the pro-privacy brigade are leaning towards a more nuanced view of what privacy actually means and how blockchain could help in this vision.
The control blockchain allows the individual is key to a new form of privacy where you can control exactly what your data is used for and how quickly you can “turn off the tap” to your data. Blockchain would be able to control this aspect better than other systems currently available and it is a disruptive influence in the marketplace if there ever was one.
This will become more and more relevant as the 5G starts enabling more and more IoT devices. We are coming to a point in time when more and more data is collected by us, about us. There needs to be control and blockchain can offer that control.