Just like you might think twice about eating chicken nuggets once you see how they are made, you’d likely hesitate about volunteering your personal information once you see how it is used and monetized.
Freedom has become one of the world’s most commoditized assets — and over the years, the internet has eroded it.
We live in a world where we’re confronted with 5,000 words of terms and conditions when buying sneakers. Crucial details about what companies do with our data is buried in masses of legalese — prompting most of us to click “I agree” without thinking of the consequences.
In other cases, companies are unacceptably opaque about how our data is used. This is a big problem when businesses are offering their services for “free”… provided we can give our email address, phone number and a few other details.
A scene from the recent sci-fi series Maniac perfectly illustrated where the world is heading. A character is given a choice — they can either pay for their subway ticket or get it for free in exchange for some personal information. As you’d guess, they bluntly chose the latter.
That’s basically what we’re doing every day — giving our data to corporations, big and small, and sacrificing our privacy and freedom in the process.
It’s gotten so bad that individual states have had to step in with rules and regulations designed to protect the public, many of whom are unaware of what they’re signing up for when they tick a seemingly innocuous box on a website.
And it’s also telling that tech giants are worried about the taps being turned off. When Apple unveiled a new feature that would enable users to opt out of having their activity tracked across apps and websites, Facebook launched a ferocious PR campaign against the measures. The social network said it was speaking out to protect the small businesses who rely on its platform for targeted advertising. Cynics among you will see it as a brazen attempt to protect profits by a company charged with some of the most insidious and influential data mining in history.
Pandora’s box has been opened
The tide is beginning to change — because we’ve opened Pandora’s box — and the world is starting to have long-overdue discussions about the privacy we’re entitled to online.
For more than 10 years now, we’ve experienced abundant financial freedom thanks to Bitcoin (BTC) and its rivals… but there’s still a long way to go in other parts of our society.
Last week, I went to the shop and spontaneously bought some moisturizer, and when I got home, I did a Google search to learn more about the product. For the next seven days, I was bombarded with moisturizer ads on Facebook.
Just like our health, our well-being and our careers, freedom is an inner personal responsibility that we need to monitor, maintain and protect — especially in the digital realm, where it can all too easily be sold in exchange for access to free services.
To feel free and safe in our homes, we rely on the privacy of our ownership, and the trustworthiness of our friends and neighbors. Government laws and housing association rules underwrite this. But we also entrust our financial privacy to institutions — in the expectation that they will be held accountable by regulators and central banks — and the whole reason Bitcoin launched in 2009 was because our expectations weren’t being met.
Why blockchain is the answer
Every modern proof-of-stake blockchain tackles the problems surrounding digital privacy and trust in a unique way, and in these vibrant communities, decentralized governance helps to ensure that standards are upheld, with slashing mechanisms serving as a deterrent to those who are tempted to work against a network’s best interests.
With PoS blockchains, users benefit from informed consent. They’re kept in the loop about proposals for improving and expanding the network and ideas for new services. Digital social consensus means they can read debates about the pros and cons associated with each proposal, come to their own conclusions, and cast a vote accordingly. Can you honestly imagine a tech giant doing this?
Privacy issues can be solved by generating abstract network addresses that are not permanently tied to public keys — or through the use of special proxy smart contracts, which are similar to VPN and Tor but on top of the blockchain.
Can blockchain technology solve some of the most pressing privacy and trust issues seen in a generation? I believe so. Once the technology is there and transactions are cheap enough, consumers will be able to make a choice — share their private data or pay a small fee instead.
We need to learn harsh lessons from the past and make the right decision this time around. I remember the early days of email when spam messages were a big issue. A small sender’s fee was considered as a way of circumventing this problem — but in the end, the likes of Gmail came out on top. Now, there’s no monetary cost… we just pay the small price of Google hosting all of our electronic correspondence.
Proof-of-stake blockchains can deliver cheap transactions, decentralized governance that regulates the network’s rules, maximum privacy, and no data collection policies. Each story starts with trust — and in the blockchain world, the trust starts with the network.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Vladimir Maslyakov is the CTO of Thekey.space and former CTO of Exante.eu. He developed several distributed financial systems as an IT architect. He has been a blockchain enthusiast since 2012 and is an initial member of the Free TON community.