Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain
Blockchain has already proven its huge influence on the financial world with its first application in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It might not be long before its impact is felt everywhere.
Blockchain is a secure chain of digital records that exist on multiple computers simultaneously so no record can be erased or falsified. The redundancy of the system ensures many backups, and the lack of a central storage place ensures there is no one target for hackers. Some suggest that blockchain could become a component of the next generation of the internet.
Many blockchain systems provide a technology called “smart contract:” these are the rules by which records can be accessed and modified by creating new versions. These rules define, for example, who gets access to the stored records, under what conditions, for what declared purpose and in exchange of what (payment or virtual credit). Smart contracts also record every access to the data in the blockchain.
In this way, users can permanently and securely store their data, set their own conditions and control who accesses the data and for what purpose. Because of these features, blockchain technology can be used to store user profile data.
Hoarding the data
Currently, social media giants hoard user data and use it to sell targeted advertisements (their main source of revenue). These social media networks don’t give users a real choice or awareness of what data about them are kept. They provide very few control options and no rewards for users in exchange of their data.
Recently, we have seen many cases when user data has been stolen by hackers, leading to breaches of privacy, the possibility for identity theft or exploitation of the data to manipulate people and influence public opinion towards voting. This can have serious consequences for the democratic process in a liberal society.