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Is your privacy protected on Facebook

Social Media platforms have given the “power Of broadcasting” in hands of common people but at the same time it has created major personal data privacy issues .

The shocking revelations about how data firm Cambridge Analytica exploited the personal information of Facebook users is yet another demoralizing reminder of how much data has been amassed about us, and of how little control we have over it.

The scandal poses some serious questions about the integrity of democracies in the information age.

From Trump to Brexit, the dirty tricks apparently offered by CIA’s top executives should cause concern everywhere that elections happen. But the episode is also worrying because of its specific focus: data.

We create reams of data every day – every time we open a browser window and every time we make a contact-less payment. We do this without thinking. The Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrates the power that this data can have when we lose control of it.

Unfortunately, the General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws that are coming into force across Europe — with more demanding consent, transparency and accountability requirements, backed by huge fines — may improve practices, but they will not change the governing paradigm: the law labels those who gather our data as “controllers”.

We are merely “subjects”. But if the past 20 years have taught us anything, it is that when business and legislators have been too slow to adapt to public demand — for goods and services that we did not even know we needed, such as Amazon and bitcoin — computer scientists have stepped in to fill the void.

And so it appears that the realms of data privacy and security are deserving of some disruption.

This might come in the form of “self-sovereign identity” systems. The theory behind self-sovereign identity is that individuals should control the data elements that form the basis of their digital identities, and not centralized authorities such as governments and private companies.

In the current online environment, we all have multiple log-ins, usernames, customer IDs and personal data spread across countless platforms and stored in myriad repositories.

Instead of this scattered approach, we should each possess the digital equivalent of a wallet that contains verified pieces of our identities. We can then choose which identification to share, with whom, and when.

Blockchain technology is one of the potential solutions to this vast proliferation.

Blockchains are distributed ledger systems – i.e. information is stored not in a single, centralized database, but in a potentially infinite number of places. Blockchains store immutable records and they are distributed among every user, each of whom has their own private cryptographic key.

This presents an opportunity.

Rather than yielding our most sensitive information to every shop or platform we interact with online, we could instead store it in a decentralized ledger, free from a single point of failure.

Connect that technology to existing payment systems and platforms, and combine it with bio-metric security features on our smart phones or tablets and we could then enjoy significantly more control over what information we share with whom – and say goodbye to passwords at the same time.

But there’s a major problem with the application of blockchain technology in this way: privacy. If our data is stored everywhere, how can it be private?

This is being tackled by researchers at MIT through their Enigma project, which is a protocol that sits on top of existing blockchains. Enigma promises “secret contracts”, as opposed to existing “smart contracts”, with nodes on the blockchain able to compute data without ever “seeing” it.

The researchers say this will allow users to maintain control over personal data, particularly through preventing its monetization or analysis by platforms.

They also claim that it could unlock a new system of lending, in which prospective borrowers can establish their trustworthiness without having to give individual lenders access to their specific personal data.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.