The internet has provided an unparalleled means of communicating with people all over the world. There are more than 60 billion messages sent per day on WhatsApp and Facebook messenger combined as well as 269 billion emails sent on a daily basis. However, these platforms have slowly become centralized over time allowing them to become prime targets for hackers and other actors seeking to harvest our data. Both of them have continuously threatened users’ rights to privacy.
Blockchain technology’s disruptive force innovates the way our data are stored, allowing users to fully control personal details they would like to share in public. Leveraging the potential of blockchain technology and decentralization may well be the key to protecting our privacy.
Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal exhibited just how companies have harvested users’ private data for monetization purposes. An estimated 87 million users around the world have had their personal information used by analytical firms, making it one of the worst data breaches in social media history. While this isn’t new, it highlights the inadequate data protection that exists in our current platforms.
Technological advancement has revealed another way to manage our data through blockchain technology. But this method isn’t something novel, in fact, it harkens back to some of the earliest ideas of the internet. Decentralization set the stage for the unparalleled World Wide Web we know today. It is also a central feature of blockchain technology.
Blockchain provides an infrastructure that allows a secure platform that provides multiple innovative use cases. The immutability and transparency that blockchain provides can gain back users’ right to privacy. However, this technology is still in its infancy.
Some entrepreneurs are attempting to increase data privacy with advanced technologies that combine cryptography and blockchain. Projects such as Origo, Oasis, and Mainframe focus completely on preserving user privacy.
Baron Gong, founder of Origo, has been a privacy activist for years. Origo focuses on privacy protection of smart contracts through data computation technology. A zero knowledge proof system allows you to verify a claim without disclosing any data. Baron Gong explained, “In Origo Network, a lot of the applications we use will not be touching your data. We are touching a computational proof of your data. The blockchain does not store your data.” Users can be confident that their personal data will not be shared with multiple companies, a concerning issue surrounding centralized organizations. This is because Origo smart contracts are private whereas smart contracts like Ethereum are all public for the world to see. Although the implementation of GDPR is designed to prevent data retention by private companies, there is no way to guarantee personal data is completely deleted in a company’s data system. Blockchain’s trust-less consensus allows them to be certain that data is used properly and if wanted, deleted permanently.
Similarly, Oasis Labs designed the Ekiden system, which carries out off-chain smart contract execution within a trusted execution environment (TEE) node to maintain the same security as if it was on-chain. TEE is an isolated secure area of the main processor in which code and data are absolutely protected against software as well as hardware attacks. No one, not even the miner, can view the code being run.
Unlike current privacy coins like Monero and Zcash, securing privacy beyond the transactional level provides more real-world applications. These projects could possibly be of great benefit in finance, enterprise, and healthcare where contracts usually contain sensitive personal information.
Adoption of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain adoption has been rather slow at a local level. However, countries such as Singapore, the Philippines, and Switzerland have progressively adopted policies in support of blockchain technology and digital currencies. Estonia has also attracted some attention after initiating an E-residency program allowing citizens to register their data on the blockchain.
Of course, mass adoption also involves awareness. Mainframe, another project promoting privacy, launched the first-ever global physical airdrop. They held real-life events where they gave away $3 million worth of their tokens. There have been significant efforts to drive blockchain tech from mere cryptocurrency investment speculation to real-world implementation.
Leading venture capital firms all over the world, including FBG Capital, Zeroth Crypto, Rockaway Blockchain Capital, Chainfund Capital, Cluster Capital, Binance Labs, and Pantera Capital ,recognize the tremendous potential of blockchain tech. They invest and support numerous projects involving privacy to produce marketable products that give power back to the consumer.
Current blockchain and centralized networks has made users’ information vulnerable to potential loss or misuse. Some entrepreneurs have come up with projects that protect user’s data with advanced technologies, combining cryptography and blockchain technology. Implementation of this tech has been seen to be slowly adopted locally. With the support of venture funds and prominent entrepreneurs, this tech could give back the power and control of data to its own users.
Article from Cryptech Global by Aime Cheung on August 2, 2018