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In this increasingly digitized world, people are transformed into users, while their identities are transformed into user data. This is a process that’s greatly accelerated by social media giants like Facebook and Google.
These companies combine billions of users from all around the world. They allow them to create their own pages, post pictures and status updates, and connect with their peers and family. The users, on the other hand, agree on providing some of the most basic details about themselves, including their full name, email address and phone number.
While this is certainly the social media era we live in, there are still some concerns that arise with those platforms. We’ll mainly be discussing Facebook and its recent handling – more precisely, mishandling – of its users’ data.
The biggest scandal Facebook has ever experienced
In 2018, the company became involved in a nasty scandal that was later termed as Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm that collects voters’ data all around the world and then creates various electoral projects with its partners.
In March, an ex-Cambridge employee leaked the files that contained tens of millions of Facebook users and their private data. As it turns out, Facebook sold the data to Cambridge Analytica to study their electoral behaviors, and potentially influence them.
The scandal was a watershed moment for everyone, except for Facebook itself. The company was apparently cognizant of this practice which was disclosed by a whistleblower.
No separation between identity and marketable data
And it goes to show how social media giants, and not just Facebook, handle our private data. When setting up an account, they notify us that any detail about us can be used for marketing purposes, and that we’re content with this practice. There is no separation between our private identity and the actual traffic that we generate on the platform.
Here’s how it works: Facebook, for the sake of our example, gathers everything we do on the platform, be it overly personal or not so much. And it doesn’t differentiate between the two types of data, with our identity becoming a part of the overall data that can be sold to the highest bidder on the market.
And we’re not saying that no one should take our online traffic and use it for marketing purposes. We acknowledge that the whole online marketing is based on cookies and other tracking mechanisms. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is to separate marketable data (demographics, preferences, frequently visited websites, etc.) from private information (our own identity).
Blockchain to save the day
Unlike Facebook and other social giants, which are more focused on their users’ privacy and data – although, not in terms of protection – blockchain-powered platforms prioritize their users and their preferences. As noted above, blockchain is a peer-to-peer network, meaning that every platform-wide decision is made by the users themselves. Therefore, democracy is much more prevalent in the decision-making process.
Users can sell data themselves
On a blockchain, users create their accounts knowing that they can effectively separate the two types of data and make further use of each of them. Not only can they protect what needs to be protected using one of the most powerful encryption mechanisms, but they can also make money out of selling the marketable data to various entities.
In the case of Facebook or other social media websites, we provide all of our data to the company without any financial compensation whatsoever. Facebook claims that this happens so that it can provide free and quality service to its users. But this is a completely obsolete and even false statement in a time when blockchain effectively gets rid of middlemen.
Again, since it’s a decentralized platform, there’s no need to have a mediator who governs the deals and contracts between the two parties. If you want to take your data and sell it to a marketing company, you can totally do that without any help from a third party. This allows for the lower costs and direct incomes to us in return for our traffic data.
Corporations and governments want their share of blockchain
Now, as blockchain leads in this decentralized environment, big companies and governments are also catching up with their own digitized projects. Here, again, we come to Facebook, which has recently announced its plan to create a cryptocurrency called Libra.
Libra is going to be a joint project between the members of the Libra Association and several governments whose currencies will be governing its value. In short, it’s going to be a stablecoin with much lower volatility than the actual cryptocurrencies.
And when it comes to privacy implications, there’s a lot to be concerned about. For instance, while Libra is seemingly a project of the Libra Association – with 20 big member corporations – Facebook is still considered the MVP. This means that the cryptocurrency is actually a centralized entity that will be subjected to Facebook’s various policies, including its privacy handling.
Considering the consumer base of nearly 2.5 billion around the globe, it’s not difficult to foresee that Libra is going for a global currency position. And Facebook has every intention and leverage to do so.
So, if the company that has access to our personal information, and does whatever it wants with it, suddenly gets hold of our financial accounts, what do you think will happen next? What guarantees do we have that the next thing Facebook sells to Cambridge Analytica, or any other company for that matter, won’t be our e-wallet credentials? The answer is: none – we cannot be sure about anything with Facebook.
Taking direct control over our privacy
All this goes to show how beneficial blockchain is. But not just any blockchain which Facebook also plans to use for Libra. Instead, we’re talking about a decentralized ledger with peer-to-peer relations. And it can help us regain control over our private data.
Not only that, blockchain will allow us to monetize our marketable data ourselves, instead of letting third parties intervene and make money from it. As it always does, blockchain delivers privacy and monetary control directly to our hands.