Op-Ed

Is Decentralization a Necessity for Privacy Concerns?

As the technological advancements in the internet, social media and storage platforms reach their heights, the basic need for security and privacy increases significantly. Although platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp and other messaging and email platforms have revolutionalize their privacy policies, but the centralization framework of these applications have given the platform handlers, and hackers, the opportunity to target our personal data and harvest our private information.

One of the most recent news of the privacy infringement was the incident with Cambridge Analytica, where details from over 50 million profiles were gathered without consent. The data was harvested to analyze average human behavior and that was said to be used for the campaign of the U.S. president Donald Trump.

According to ProPublica:

..the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many credit cards are in their wallets.

Although the company claims that a small amount of data is collected solely to influence the kind of ads we see, many tech insiders state otherwise. Even if the claims are true, the right to privacy is still breached.

Apart from this the data of almost 87 million users of social media around the world is said to be harvested by analytical firms across the world, which makes this the worst privacy and data breach issue of the history.

In the modern world, not only the privacy concerns worried users, but also, the access of data by third parties and our dependency on working off of the storage platforms are a problem.

Last year, Amazon S3, the world’s largest cloud storage platform went offline. This issue created problems for Trello, Quora, Heroku, Slack and many other services across the world. It was also reported that even IoT connected thermostats and light bulbs stopped working. The cause of all this mayhem turned out to be just a mistyped command during server maintenance. The problem might seem to be minute on the server end, but the impacts are huge due to restriction put forward in the access of data. As the internet progresses more and more, the more we become reliant on such platforms and their failures cause more damage than just minor inconveniences.

Such issues of data security, access and retrievability give rise to the formation of decentralized platforms. Blockchain technology has innovated the way we control our data and how we store it. The user can simply control what personal details they want to share with public. Leveraging this technology to address our privacy and access related concerns may be the key for our centralization issues. Decentralization is the initial step for the kind of internet we dream of and its roots are embedded in blockchain technology.

Although the technology is still in the development phase, it still gives us a framework that allow a secure platform for multiple use cases. The transparency that blockchain provide the users is unparalleled and without a doubt, is the key to the right to privacy.

Using this technology, however, requires mass adoption of the blockchain technology and the first step on the ladder for worldwide adoption of this technology is awareness. This adoption is pretty slow at the local level, but companies like RapidzPay, Storj etc. are using this blockchain technology to address common issues like payment for the daily purchases and provision of online storage decentralized platforms. These provisions are helping people getting more and more aware of the blockchain and it’s potential. The problem of awareness and low fraction of people adopting this technology on an individual level was identified and addressed by the founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin in his tweet:

The storage platforms attempt to hide the data in case of any shutdowns and issues at the developer end from third party storage providers and hackers by providing a class end-to-end encryption and sending these encrypted files in the form of fragments called shards to multiple systems which are willing to rent out their hard drive spaces. Using blockchain, having the same infrastructure helps the users to stay safe in regards of privacy and the ability to access their own data and the lack of server issues makes the data access much easier.

Some entrepreneurs are also employing the blockchain technology for increasing data privacy. Projects such as OrigoOasis, and Mainframe focus completely on preserving user privacy.

Origo focuses on the privacy protection of the 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 applications we use will not be accessing 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.

As the privacy concerns of people using centralized platforms like Facebook, clouds and other mediums of connection grow even more and more, the need of a decentralized platform that addresses all the privacy needs of users grow exponentially. It is expected that in the future, the decentralized applications build upon blockchain will soon take over the platforms that show a high risk of collecting and analyzing users’ private data, or those who are simply prone to hackers.

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