Using Blockchain for Data Privacy

The amount of data in our world is rapidly increasing. According to a recent report, it is estimated that 20% of the world’s data has been collected only in the past couple of years. Facebook, the largest online social-network, collected 300 petabytes of personal information since its inception!

In this Big Data era, data is being constantly captured and analysed, leading to innovation and economic growth. Companies and organizations use the data they collect to personalize services, optimize the personal decision-making process, predict future trends and more. Today, data has become the most valuable asset of an economy.

While we all reap the benefits of a data driven society, there is a growing public concern about user privacy. Centralized organization both public and private, amass large quantities of personal as well as sensitive information. Individuals have little or no control over the data that is stored about them.

Data Breach Affects Us All

In the past few years there has been an increase in reported incidents of surveillance and security breaches compromising user privacy. Last year in July 2017, personal information of around 143 million consumers, was breached from Equifax, one of the largest credit bureaus in the U.S. Among the latest and most recent is the Facebook fiasco where more than 87 million user’s data were compromised by UK based Cambridge Analytica data analytics firm.

But the real icing on the cake was, that many of these users whose data were leaked were not even aware of the fact that those companies were holding on to it – such is the staggering growth of data creation and collection, and the lack of controls associated with it. This definitely calls into question the current data upkeep model by enterprises, in which third parties collect and control massive amounts of personal data.

Replication poses a major risk of our personal data. For instance, think about the number of times we have punched in our name, address, email id and contact numbers into a website. We do this without batting an eyelid and thus give in to this ever-increasing data proliferation problem unknowingly.

The real question now is, can this be prevented? Its high time for us to realign our views on data capturing, verifying, analysing and storing process.

Decentralization, Immutability and Blockchain

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Blockchain technology could be one of the potential solutions to address this problem. The decentralized nature of the ledger, makes it impossible for any hacker trying to attack a single node – in the way they can for a traditional centralized server – which is not only expensive but limited too.

Blockchain also offers immutability – meaning once data is added to blockchain it cannot be altered. Immutability on the Blockchain is governed by “Proof of Work” cryptographic process that require huge amounts of computing power to add new information to the ledger.

Immutability and decentralization together create a network of trust where all consumers and merchants are treated equally. Blockchain is actually a solution for authenticity in itself. It possesses the full range of features required to tackle data breaches like encryption, no single point of failure, immutability and anonymity.

To bring in the much-needed aspect of trust between a consumer and an enterprise, a consumer data wallet can be created whose primary access control will now lie with the user unlike before. This data wallet will be shareable, but only at the discretion of the data wallet owner – the user.

Thus, Blockchain can be the perfect solution that we have been yearning for. It has the potential to significantly reduce the number of privacy breaches and thus secure what is dearest to us, our online identity.