A Facebook blockchain move to guard users’ data may be in the offing. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the technology giant seems to indicate as much in a recent interview without clearly spelling it out.
A blockchain-based solution to protect Facebook users’ privacy could be path-breaking. The move, if materializes, could have a significant impact on the practice of user data collection by technology giants.
Experts and observers are increasingly wondering whether data is the new oil of the global economy. Technology giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft collect a massive amount of user data. Much of their business model and business activities depend on this data.
When you signed up for that Facebook account, you thought it was free. It turns out that nothing is free in the ultimate analysis! Facebook collects an enormous amount of data from your online interactions. You get targeted ads suited to your interests within moments of your interaction!
Every time you use Google Maps, Google collects your data. Your transactions on Amazon enable them to collect your data. Technology giants use robust analytics engines to slice and dice this data. Your preferences become clear to them, and your free interactions help them show ads.
Many privacy activists are increasingly concerned about the information these technology giants have about us. Many users are wary about how these business use their information.
It often becomes worse when large-scale scandals strike. Repercussions of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal continue, making users further worried about what technology giants do with their data.
Can you forego the Facebook news feed, the convenience of Google Maps, or the Amazon shopping experience? You probably can’t. Do technology giants have a responsibility to guard your privacy? They do. The question is, how?
Facebook blockchain move can show the way
Users can be very selective about what they share, however, many aren’t conversant enough with the privacy settings of these apps. The current technology regime doesn’t quite make it easy for users to control their data.
Blockchain, with its’ decentralization, encryption, transparency, immutability, and smart contracts can tilt the balance in the users’ favor. Users can choose to encrypt their private information. They can securely store them in the distributed ledger, thus reducing the incentives for hackers.
Users can reach appropriate agreements with technology giants about sharing their data. They can use the tamper-proof, transparent smart contracts for this. Smart contracts will also provide transparency over how big businesses are using the data.
To be sure, blockchain has some hurdles to cross before its’ use in protecting online users’ privacy. Public blockchain networks like Ethereum don’t quite scale well at the time of writing. The energy-hungry crypto-mining process isn’t sustainable in the long run, either.
Zuckerberg, while alluding to these challenges during the interview, doesn’t consider these insurmountable. He considers these as teething problems that any new technology faces.
He has focused more on the basic premises of a potential Facebook blockchain project to protect users’ identity. He wondered aloud whether the added power in the hands of all users might lead to a higher degree of abuses and criminal activities.
Conclusion: A Facebook blockchain move to guard privacy could be transformative
User identity management is a powerful blockchain use case, as the CULedger/Evernym partnership to protect American credit union members from identity theft shows. Facebook is keen on blockchain technology, as its’ acquisition of Chainspace shows. Will Facebook transform how users’ data is used, aided by blockchain? Watch this space.