When news broke of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018, where personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles had been harvested without their consent, there was fear and outrage, but most importantly, shock.
Since Facebook, as well as other major interest companies, started taking off on the back of important and valuable data, people have been mostly oblivious as to the reach these companies have when it comes to collecting personal information.
However, what is even more concerning is that many people who do enter into these social contracts with internet companies, where their data is stored and collected, are far too trusting. The expectation is that a company on the scale of Facebook, Google, or other similarly large corporations will have an arsenal of data protection fallbacks.
However, more and more data hacks and scandals are hitting the news, and it is often the internet giants that are implicated, spilling millions of people’s information across the web.
Thus, it is understandable that people are starting to wise up and look for alternative ways to protect their data in an internet age that prizes it so heavily. The fact that data has always been so freely taken without much consent is what irks people, and that is why they are starting to look elsewhere.
Secure identity systems are one use of blockchain technology that has made quite a bit of headway in the recent past. Civic was probably one of the first blockchain companies that looked at handing power back to the individual when it came to controlling their data, but now, with this added demand for data security other companies are popping up, and even overtaking the likes of Civic.
The fact remains though that there is now an even more significant demand for data security. And because of what the blockchain can offer people, and what they are looking for in this internet age, where data give and take is necessary, means that many more people are exploring this option.
Data at risk
Cambridge Analytica was the very highly publicised tip of the iceberg in regards to data hacks and breaches. The first half of 2018 saw 2,308 publicly disclosed data breaches that resulted in the exposure of approximately 2.6 billion user records, a report from cyber threat intelligence company Risk Based Security showed.
A lot of these breaches would have occurred through poorly protected websites and data collecting portals which were easily compromised. Protecting one’s data from these types of sites is more common sense than anything.
However, it is the tech giants that made news in their data breaches that seemingly caused a change in mindset. Social media devours data and information, but for the most part, people have been happy to part with it knowing that it will be secure. That is not the case.
“Every week we are seeing news of breaches from major corporations,” explains Ryan Faber, cofounder of Bloom, a company creating cryptographically secure identity, powered by the blockchain. “The public is starting to learn about the murky world of data collection. Many are shocked to learn that every moment, servers are logging, cataloguing, and selling your personal, private information.”
The importance, and value, of data, has grown in magnitude over the past decade or so. For the individuals who are producing it, there has been no form of compensation, and certainly not enough security. Because of this, people have started to place more importance on their data and are thus looking for a secure global identity system.
A basic look over the function of a blockchain immediately lends itself to data protection. It is immutable and un-hackable, eliminating breeches from unwanted actors, but it is can also be transactional, meaning that people can choose what level of data they want to reveal, and said data is reachable on the distributed ledger.
Civic was one of the first companies that looked at putting identities on the blockchain, but as demand has increased for control and security of data, so have other alternative started gaining traction.
“The demand for secure identity and better data management practices has been huge,” adds Faber. “More than ever, people want to take back control of their data. We’ve seen this reflected in our rapid user growth for example, with more than 120,000 BloomIDs created last year alone.”
The power of blockchain identity systems is not only that the data is on the blockchain and thus un-hackable, but it is also that the user becomes in charge of what data can and cannot be accessed.
It differs significantly than the current way things are done. Data is syphoned from individuals for little to no compensation, and this data is then sold off for vast sums of money leaving individuals pillaged, often without even knowing it.
Faber goes on to explain just how different blockchain data security is from traditional methods.
“The access to your data is stored locally on your device, meaning you have ultimate and complete control over your data. The data doesn’t touch a traditional central server, reducing the risk of a data breach. For instance, we use public-key cryptography to securely store and share your data with parties of your choice.”
More than individual demand
There is no denying the fact that data is becoming a form of currency in the modern digital world, and because of this heading, there will no doubt be more of a focus on the protection of data going forward.
Individuals are starting waking up to the value of their data and the desire to keep it secure and safe, and so, corporations are also beginning to see the value of companies offering these blockchain solutions.
Bloom, for example, has collaborated with American Express Middle East to help drive fintech innovation as part of the company’s ACCELERATE ME program. Furthermore, they were also one of six startups selected for the Financial Services Collaboration Lab.
Civic has also started utilising its secure identity system in a real-world use case, integrating their app with Johnson Controls Smart Buildings.
Still searching for the killer app.
Blockchain technology continues to be pointed and stretched across a multitude of different sectors in the search for its ‘killer app’. There is real evidence that the technology can serve in the protection and control of individual data, and as demand continues to surge, this facet of blockchain technology will continue to expand.
The days of data being freely and openly pillaged from individuals and sold off to fuel major internet corporation are quickly coming to an end. Users demand more security than can be offered by these giants, and they are also claiming back their right to have control over their data.
Note: The author of this article is Darryn Pollock