Social media giant Facebook recently had to bear the brunt of regulators for mishandling user data. According to report shared by New York Times, Facebook had shared sensitive user data with more than 60 device makers, including Apple and Samsung thereby staking confidential data of millions of users. While the internet giant has blatantly refuted all the allegations levelled against it and has constantly tried to justify its stand, the fact remains that its user data has been spread or hacked way beyond boundaries that are no longer within the control of the company. This and constant drumbeat of similar other high-profile instances have pushed the tipping point when people have started believing that the internet they have been relying on is actually broken.
What is the Reason for Erosion of Data Privacy?
Erosion of data privacy happens when businesses and individuals share the details of their activities on the public domain. This exposes their confidential data to third-parties who monitor, store and use their data for their personal gain. Furthermore, breakthrough in technological innovations has further added to their woes wherein data could be linked back to an individual even after the individual opts out of a particular platform where they might have shared their personal data. Additionally, the digital data has an inherent risk that you loose the right to data as soon as you share it online. It can be distributed to unintended recipients without your knowledge or control.
Impact of Data Generation on Privacy?
Over the years thousands and millions of terabytes of personal data has been generated. So, it makes sense if users consider a platform’s designs before sharing their data, which determines whether a company acquires and uses these data for benefitting or exploiting consumers. While certain privacy focused legislations such as the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) have been brought into place to protect individuals from the menace of data theft, the recent events of unsolicited data harvesting and data hacking with some top-notch internet giants prove that compromise of stored data has now become a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.
How Blockchain Fits into the Equation:
Since, legislation isn’t likely to make much of a difference, there arises the need for a technology solution that can do away with the loopholes of the current centralized data storage system used by third parties. Blockchain – A distributed ledger technology (DLT) acts very differently from the centralized system of storage by transferring ownership of information along with the data from one system to the other rather than just copying and pasting information from one computer to the other.
Furthermore, the private-public architecture of Blockchain ensures data privacy in digital format. Blockchain uses cryptographic keys and hashes to provide a secure way of storing and managing data, including personal information. A new method of protecting personal information using Blockchain technology is by using Homomorphic Encryption’ that allows computations on encrypted data without the need for decrypting the data. This means data security and privacy can be ensured while computations are done on it. So, only users with proper decryption keys can access the details of the transaction.
This happens because data that is stored on the distributed ledger is immutable and is managed through consensus, which is gathered from all the participants of the network. This provides users with better control over their data thereby allowing them to choose who can have access to their information and that too after paying for getting the privilege. So, it could be inferred that Blockchain being a decentralized database allows for data replication across several unrelated nodes but doesn’t allow any specific node to assume control of your data or act as gatekeeper as it happens with centralized bodies.
The Way Ahead:
Today, most of our private/ confidential information shared by us is either present in databases of different companies or on the internet, which in turn is a centralized body. As a result, our sensitive data lies at the disposal of few players who tend to control and make the most of this sensitive data. With data growing at an exponential rate, it doesn’t come as a surprise that data privacy will continue to erode. As a result, the control and ownership of data should remain with the users rather than with any third-party who can misuse it for personal gains. With a Blockchain based solution in place, issues related to erosion in privacy could be reduced significantly.
Apart from this, making regulations about gathering, storing and distributing sensitive data becomes simpler with a Blockchain based solution. Moreover, Blockchain also allows documenting terms and conditions within itself in form of smart contracts, which in turn ensure increased transparency. Also, since, the ledger is tamper-proof, it acts as a legal evidence for data accessibility and storage. In a nutshell, Blockchain technology has revolutionized the way data privacy and ownership were managed till now by safeguarding the interests and rights of its actual owners.