Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the Web like deer on a freeway. — Geoffrey Moore
Data is rising in value as rapidly as natural resources. And justifiably so, because data helps big companies to properly conduct targeted advertising and gives individuals a freeway into the lives of others, among other things. That is why it is so upsetting when our data gets in the hands of unwanted actors.
Facebook has recently disclosed a previously unreported attack on its network that exposed the personal data of nearly 50 million users. The company said it discovered the breach in end of September. Attackers used a flaw in Facebook’s code and “view as” feature to take over user accounts according to the company’s spokesperson.
The news hardly surprised anyone, in the era when data is produced as easily as it is exploited, we can see a counter-resistance emerging. One of such counter-hegemonic platforms is Mastodon.
Mastodon in its essence is a decentralized Twitter. According to the official description, Mastodon is a “social network based on open web protocols and free, open-source software. It is decentralized like e-mail.” All the participants are welcome as long as they abide by the code of conduct presented on the website. There is no advertising, data mining or a central authority. Some sceptics, ironically enough voicing their opinion on Twitter, say that Mastodon has less privacy and will be harder to sustain than Twitter. I guess people sometimes would rather go with a known evil than an unknown friend.
Another example, where the data authority and its ownership are under scrutiny is a new project by Sidewalk Labs. Sidewalk Labs is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, which is a parent company of Google Inc. Sidewalk Labs wants to build a neighborhood from “internet up”, with lots of sensors and monitors to help mitigate the traffic, environment and poverty concerns and make life more pleasant, for example heating up the streets in winter. However, with all the technology involved, the project is to produce a lot of data.
Privacy watchdogs are concerned about what Google, the master company, is going to do with all the data. Users don’t want their data to be shared with a third party for revenue-making purposes without their consent. Blockchain could put the data back in the hands of users instead of a central authority that has no mechanism of check and balances to oversee its actions.
Google and Facebook are big corporations that are fed by the data we produce, blockchain can level the playing field. Funny enough, we may not even need Blockchain technology per se to reclaim our data. But having such technology/tool available makes corporations more responsible towards the data that we produce. They become more concerned if we walk away from them and own the data we generate. People enjoy using Facebook Messenger and Gmail, the end point is not giving the applications up, but governing the data we generate together.
Reclaiming out digital footprint will be an uphill battle, but it is the one worth pursuing. After all, if our data sells, why are we not the ones who profit?