Blockchain: Owning Your Data

12/09/2019

In my last piece, I threw together some thoughts about how blockchain could reshape how we approach work. It offers itself perfectly – if implemented right – to essentially abolishing the idea of corporate hierarchies, decentralising online platforms and giving individuals autonomy and security. Like the rise of the Internet, however, which promised similar ideas of freedom, blockchain is being hit with corporate influence. In this piece, though, I want to talk about one way blockchain fights back against the most lucrative market to ever exist: data.

Data is everywhere, and it’s being collected all the time. Everything you do and say, both online and in the real world, is captured (I balk at the idea of an Alexa or Google Home, but I’m under no illusions my phone and laptop don’t have similar functions, even with the “smart” assistants and setting turned off). It’s collected by numerous corporations and governments, bought and sold for profit, used to create an almost perfect digital mirror of the real you.

And we all willingly – if unknowingly – gave up our right to privacy long ago; generations have grown up adopting the horrors of 1984 because that’s just how those in power have moulded the world today. Not only that, they profit off of this data, our data that we naively submit to them because to not do so would pretty much cut out most technology.

But what if we could change that. What if we, not corporate or State powers, had control over our own data? What if we could decide who or what got to access parts or all of our data, even monetise it to profit ourselves?

Blockchain, by virtue of being (wrongly) associated solely with Bitcoin and the Dark Web, has faced some pitfalls in terms of adoptability and knowledge, but the thing that brought it such infamy is the exact same thing that could provide us with the key – the only key – to our own private data. You could have all of your data stored on the blockchain and you would have complete control over it. Some quick examples:

  • Medical data could be stored securely on a blockchain platform, and should you need to see a doctor you can allow that person access only to whatever data they need to see, and only for the duration of the appointment. No more risky, centralised databases like the government’s MyHealthRecord, or cases like all of those Medicare card details that got stolen a while back.
  • Your online activity and shopping habits would be private, no longer being tracked and sold to throw invasive advertising at you everywhere you go.
  • Electronic voting, if other flaws are handled, would be viable, allowing people to anonymously vote for who they want without fear of interference and rigging.

There are many more benefits, but you get the idea – we now do have the technology to make privacy the domain of the individual. Of course, what an individual does with their data is their own concern. While I am against the idea for myself, monetising your data by letting advertisers pay you to access it is already something being explored, allowing you to control what they get access to.

In my view, privacy – online and in the real world – is a basic human right, and the current State and corporate stranglehold over all of us is an extreme violation of that. We will see where blockchain goes in the future, whether it’s taken over by corporate power like the Internet, cloud computing, etc. was, or if it is allowed to flourish and integrate privacy and freedoms as its defining feature.

 

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Previous piece: Blockchain Technology Can Reshape Work

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