There is a strong argument that the financial war has already been won, and as more people embrace digital currencies, the fiat industrial complex will unravel further. It is only a matter of time with the wheels already set in motion. But as pivotal as the financial fulcrum may be, there is a more pressing battle to take place over the next decade. It is the battle for user data.
The importance of user data
Assets and identities are becoming digitalized, completely. With facial recognition, fingerprint scans, virtual reality, augmented reality, and an increasingly digital society, the integrity of your online identity is paramount. Data is the new oil, according to the Economist. Everything that you do is monitored online, in some fashion. Existing algorithms are already better than humans at an analysis of human behavior, with minimal data. According to a Facebook study quoted by Yuval Noah Harari –
“The Facebook algorithm is a better judge of human personalities and dispositions than even people’s friends, parents and spouses… Amazingly, the algorithm needed a set of only ten Likes in order to outperform the predictions of work colleagues. It needed seventy Likes to outperform friends, 150 Likes to outperform family members and 300 Likes to outperform spouses.”
Contemplate this. Ten Facebook likes. Now factor in credit card purchases, uber lifts, shopping preferences, private messages, Skype calls, location tracking, retail shopping sensors, etc. They know more about you than you do, and with the increase of technology, this trend is, if it can be believed, going to get worse. Data is indeed the new oil, oil being the historical foundation for US invasions of multiple jurisdictions.
All user data is tracked, and sold to third parties who specialize in selling products aimed at consumers, with the associated statistics.
The steps to data decentralization
There are two primary steps to taking back data. The first is to request, delete, and modify all collected user data, where appropriate. The second is to use decentralized applications where possible, though these applications have not yet been fully developed.
Liberdy.io can help with the first step. They are focusing on empowering customers who can leverage the application to analyze which companies hold their data. They can then choose what to share, and users are then paid for their information. The application is GDPR compliant, meaning that all companies must make a copy of user data accessible to customers on demand.
Using decentralized applications will become the norm as the ecosystem develops. This is especially important for web browsers, though the decentralized web is not yet here. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, all of these companies are going to be replaced by a decentralized solution in the future. In the meantime, the data continues to be collected and sold among power players. Using decentralized applications means that user data is not held in centralized servers, and thus cannot be sold.
There are multiple DLT based platforms that are creating decentralized digital rights platforms. This will put power in the hands of the users, so all personal data is theirs alone. These systems are designed from the ground up so that no information is stored. Hyperledger, Civic, and uPort are some of the more well-known digital identity platforms.
What can we do?
Unfortunately, going private is far more difficult than it first appears. Giving up Google is pretty hard, given that it still, for some reason, vastly outperforms other search engines. A VPN is a necessity, but can often result in a very slow performance (There is no conceivable reason that IP addresses should not be automatically scrambled by ISPs). People delete their Facebook accounts. For a week, and then go back.
Enabling full online security is a very onerous task when it should not be so. You would need to strategically target location services, cookies, scripts, ads, email subscriptions, forms, social media sites, IP address, web browser tracking, sign-ins, content across multiple sites, and malware unless you purchase a comprehensive security service. And that is for one device. The smartphone is where the high quality ‘oil’ comes from, taken on the go. Compounding the problem is that even if you do secure one device, it will have a huge impact on the performance and usability.
The issue is that we do not have the decentralized infrastructure in place, though it is being created right now based on DLT. Users should not have to enable a host of third-party applications, so they can simply browse online.
The only solution right now is, unfortunately, to continue to use VPN’s, to delete Facebook and demand data back, and to use an encrypted search engine like Duck Duck Go. Data is not decentralized right now, and we are in the dark ages regarding user data and digital ownership rights.
Nothing is more important than your personal data in the technology age. Keep it safe, and establish good online security habits, as far as reasonably practicable.
Digital Nomad with an interest in Zen and Blockchain technology.
Law graduate with 3 years experience as a consultant in the capital markets industry and 4 years experience freelancing on UpWork as a Creative Writer.