Daily, there are discussions about the economy, immigration, healthcare, the Middle East and our data privacy. Many are happy to debate the political issues. But, when it comes to data privacy, either people either don’t care, don’t understand the problem, believe our privacy is dead or there’s nothing we can do.
The Great Hack
Maybe nothing will change in our lifetime, but the loss of data privacy happened under our watch and we can fix it. In Netflix’s newly-released documentary, “The Great Hack,” David Carroll, associate professor of media design at the Parsons School of Design at New School in New York, asked his students, “Who has seen an ad that’s convinced you that your microphone is listening to your conversations? What’s happening is your behavior is being accurately predicted.”
A student responds, “Since I grew up with the internet, the ads don’t bother me. When does it turn sour?” Carroll says, “It began with a dream of a connected world. A space where everyone could share their experiences and feel less alone. It wasn’t long before this world became our matchmaker, instant fact-checker, personal entertainer, guardian of our memories, even our therapists. “
David Carroll was teaching media and developing apps and knew that all our online data wasn’t simply disappearing. He determined that these digital traces of all of us are being mined into a trillion-dollar industry, and we’re the commodity.
But, how did this happen?
“We were so in-love with this free connectivity that no one bothered to read the terms and conditions.” All our credit card swipes, interactions, locations, and likes are collected in real-time, attached to our identities which provides direct access to any buyer.
The amount of data and information can predict our children’s futures.
The Political Story
For political analysis, please read, The Washington Post article, “Brittany Kaiser’s work with Cambridge Analytica helped elect Donald Trump. She’s hoping the world will forgive her,” Tech Crunch, Vox, iNews, Newsweek and many others also focused on this story. Since the film was released on July 24, 2019, top-tier news coverage will continue.
I met Brittany Kaiser during South by Southwest (SXSW) in March 2019. Unaware of who she was, I participated in her discussion as the Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower. I was joined by Adryenn Ashley, global blockchain influencer and founder of Loly.io’s CrptoVixens, and spoke during pop-ups in Austin, Texas. Brittany never spoke about her movie, but rather, her #OwnYourData campaign.
Upon my return, I wrote the article, Data Privacy is Gone. Why You Should Care and continued to read, learn, attend events, summits and conferences about blockchain. Beyond the nodes, chains, mining and other technical jargon, I made it my mission to understand why blockchain is truly a global discussion.
I attend many events and pitch fests with blockchain and crypto founders, investors and enthusiasts who are identifying new business applications which will disrupt a wide range of industry sectors.
“By creating new business models for a transparent, verifiable register of transaction data since blockchain operates through a decentralized platform requiring no central supervision, making it resistant to fraud. Ultimately, the use cases for a transparent, verifiable register of transaction data are practically endless — especially since blockchain operates through a decentralized platform requiring no central supervision, making it resistant to fraud.” – CB Insights, June 2019
Data Mining is a 24/7/365 Business
Customer data is big business. With the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet, Uber, PayPal, Visa, eBay and Microsoft – among numerous others – collect, analyze and monetize our data.
From credit reporting with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to people search like Spokeo, ZoomInfo, People Smart, Intellius, to dating apps like Tinder and OkCupid, and location apps like Google Maps and Waze, from the minute we wake up in the morning, we’re being tracked.
Remember the days when we worried about our children’s whereabouts? Today, apps can infer where our children are, where they go to school, what restaurants they frequent, who their friends are and much, much more.
Our digital footprints extend beyond the apps we use, the sites we visit, and the things we share. These devices have become so ingrained in our lives that we freely share our behaviors and interests with strangers and companies that profit from it. While these practices have existed for decades, we’ve lost control.
Here’s how we can regain it.
Data Privacy and Security Meet Blockchain
Blockchain isn’t a new technology but has advanced rapidly through a combination of technologies including the internet, private key cryptography and an incentivizing protocol that Satoshi Nakomoto (a pseudonymous person or persons) used to develop and implement bitcoin.
Using blockchain technology, people make entries into a record of information and a community of users controls how it’s amended and updated. This process eliminates the need for third parties since users grant or revoke access to data using:
- Cryptographic keys
- Shared ledgers which incentive users
- Private keys as ownership
- A peer-to-peer distributed network that ensures centralized failure
- Authorizing transactions based on blockchain’s protocol
Entrepreneurs worldwide understand the powerful implications of the technology which will create a transaction layer for the Internet, called the Internet of Value.
Since blockchain is open-source, users can create new platforms. This enables creators to communicate, transfer money and make payments, use smart contracts, bank, trade, reduce hacking, advertise, educate, vote, compute, forecast, share content, record and transfer land titles and deeds, obtain insurance, improve healthcare, supply-chain, manage energy and sports, track government records and guns, improve law enforcement and transform many other industry sectors.
Proposed solutions include breaking up big tech companies to introducing new congressional legislation – which miss the core issue: How can we stop companies from collecting, storing and selling our data?
“Technological advancements can meet Americans’ demands for privacy, and perhaps already are, through cryptonetworks. Cryptonetworks are decentralized platforms governed by the community of users rather than by chief executives or small management teams.
You would access these networks by logging on to a browser like what you use today. But the piping undergirding the decentralized networks is powered by blockchain technology capable of delivering stronger data security, portability and privacy for every user. In many respects, it is a throwback to the permission-less innovation that brought us the internet we know today. For the free market, there is no better remedy to monopolistic behavior.
That is not to say that there is zero role for government. The Federal Trade Commission should step in when companies break the law or violate settlements with consumers or the government. Indeed, the F.T.C’s role is perhaps more important and challenging than ever, because big tech continues to grow bigger.
Congress also has a role. It should develop a clear privacy framework that sets one federal standard for the country and adheres to three simple principles: You should be able to see, control and delete your data. These standards have the advantage of being bipartisan, which in today’s Washington is saying something.
While the obscurity of blockchain might make it seem intimidating, we are seeing leading technology companies and venture capitalists looking to bring it into the mainstream.
As the most technologically advanced country in the world, it is America’s responsibility to give this technology space to run and grow. Companies that have repeatedly broken promises to their users deserve scrutiny. But the federal government must not mistakenly turn scrutiny into suppression.
In the right “light touch” regulatory environment, decentralized networks can provide the transparent, secure platforms that respect an individual’s privacy and dignity.” – The New York Times, July 2019.
While the announcement of Facebook’s Libra had mixed reactions, many industry leaders agree that this private currency (many proponents call it a cryptocurrency, but it fails to meet most of the basic definitions) will help drive mainstream crypto adoption, while validating the need to use blockchain technology.
Blockchain is being experimented, implemented and invested in across the aisle, across the pond, on the Street and in Silicon Valley. While new regulations will take time, blockchain is here to stay. Depending on your age, data privacy with blockchain may not be fully realized in your lifetime, but we can continue to drive the conversation by challenging ourselves to learn about it and take responsibility for the lack of privacy and monetization of our data and ensure that future generations aren’t plagued by this problem.
Our data – our personal information – shouldn’t be reduced to a commodity that can be sold at any price and to the highest bidder. Let’s work to help create a new paradigm.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Equities Contributor: Wendy Glavin
Source: Equities News