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#DeleteFacebook Highlights The Benefits Of Blockchain

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Jemma Green

#DeleteFacebook highlights benefits of blockchain technology

It’s been a tough week for Facebook. Thanks to reports in the New York Times and the Guardian’s whistleblower, it was revealed the $500 billion company allowed thousands of app developers to harvest data through third party online quizzes and games.

It took just one of those developers to share unconsented data of over 50 million Facebook users with the Trump campaign’s data firm, Cambridge Analytica – a company that has previously boasted creating 230 million psychological profiles, which it then used to target American voters with emotionally specific messaging.

The details erupted and resulted in the #DeleteFacebook movement.

The trending hashtag appeared more than 10,000 times on Twitter within two hours on Wednesday alone. Even the co-founder of Facebook-owned app WhatsApp, Brian Acton, joined in.

Trusting Facebook

We’ve learned Facebook can share your data in an instant, yet deleting your account can take up to 90 days. Multiple articles have since surfaced detailing the steps required to delete Facebook, with others suggesting it insults those who don’t have the privilege of leaving.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a recent Facebook post, which did little to placate the masses, who flooded other centralized social media platforms including Twitter, Reddit and Instagram to express their outrage.

Is it a coincidence that Instagram (also owned by Facebook) has today announced an algorithm change that users have been requesting for months? Is it a PR move? Maybe. The latter is certainly supported by Instagram’s development of its own in-app shopping feature. Now not only does one of the most influential companies on the planet know what content you engage with, whose profile you look at and where you are when you post — it also knows what images drive you to make purchases and what time of day you’re most susceptible to advertising. All this valuable data can then be commoditized, under false promises of anonymity, with Facebook as the profiteers. Of course there are arguments that sharing your data can improve your user experience and therefore every site you visit, app you use and streaming service you watch is collecting data for your benefit. For most, it’s not a problem until data is used to help sway elections or target teens, minors and the vulnerable. Digital data is virtually impossible to “delete”.

“We have a basic responsibility to protect peoples’ data,” Zuckerberg repeated in an interview with CNN. “This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened.”

But Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie claims Facebook knew all along.

“Facebook could see it was happening,” Wylie told The Guardian. “Their security protocols were triggered because [Dr Aleksandr] Kogan’s apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, ‘Fine’.”

Therein lies the problem. When you give your data to a central authority you are trusting that company to make good decisions and keep it safe. Once they do something to lose that trust, it’s often too late. You can’t retrospectively take your data back.

The CLOUD Act

On the same day the world was distracted by #deletefacebook, the House of Representatives passed controversial legislation that would allow United States law enforcement agencies to take data from technology companies, even if it’s stored outside the United States. The kicker? This can be enforced without the consent of foreign governments.

The CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) was attached to a much larger Omnibus bill, which dealt with $1.3 trillion in spending, and will now move ahead to the Senate. President Trump has already pledged to sign.

Under the CLOUD Act companies would be required to hand over data to the United States government irrespective of the location of the data or data subject meaning, for example, this could implicate an Australian company simply using a database like Google Drive.

For tech companies operating internationally, foreign governments could threaten to stop business operations in their country, essentially strong arming them into giving up the data. The Act will also give the executive (the President) more power to determine which foreign countries are allowed to subpoena data from tech companies in the United States.

Can’t-trust-the-government concerns aside, the CLOUD Act highlights a weakness in today’s database systems.&nbsp;Typically all of an organization’s data&nbsp;is&nbsp;stored in a centralized cloud database, making it an easy target.

Blockchain As A Solution

Computing power coupled with breakthroughs in cryptography and algorithms have led to the creation of distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies. In its simplest form, a distributed ledger is a database held and updated by each participant, also known as a node, in a large network. Every single node in the network processes every transaction, reaching unique outcomes and then voting on those outcomes to ensure the majority concurs.

When a consensus is reached, the blockchain or distributed ledger is updated and all nodes retain a copy of the ledger. Completely transparent, auditable and immutable. The distributed ledger is what keeps the data secure.

In essence, distributed ledgers and the uprise in blockchain technology challenge the concept of the trust held by centralized authorities, such as banks and governments as well as data-collecting mega corporations looking to make a quick buck from analytics firms or third-party app developers.

The fundamental problem plaguing Facebook is that they agreed to let a third party scrape their data, without control of where that data would go next.

At its least, blockchain technology would enable corporations to add a level of unmodifiable transparency to data tracking. At its best, it would give entities power over who accesses their sensitive information.

And perhaps Mark Zuckerberg would be having a better week.

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Jemma Green

#DeleteFacebook highlights benefits of blockchain technology

It’s been a tough week for Facebook. Thanks to reports in the New York Times and the Guardian’s whistleblower, it was revealed the $500 billion company allowed thousands of app developers to harvest data through third party online quizzes and games.

It took just one of those developers to share unconsented data of over 50 million Facebook users with the Trump campaign’s data firm, Cambridge Analytica – a company that has previously boasted creating 230 million psychological profiles, which it then used to target American voters with emotionally specific messaging.

The details erupted and resulted in the #DeleteFacebook movement.

The trending hashtag appeared more than 10,000 times on Twitter within two hours on Wednesday alone. Even the co-founder of Facebook-owned app WhatsApp, Brian Acton, joined in.

Trusting Facebook

We’ve learned Facebook can share your data in an instant, yet deleting your account can take up to 90 days. Multiple articles have since surfaced detailing the steps required to delete Facebook, with others suggesting it insults those who don’t have the privilege of leaving.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a recent Facebook post, which did little to placate the masses, who flooded other centralized social media platforms including Twitter, Reddit and Instagram to express their outrage.

Is it a coincidence that Instagram (also owned by Facebook) has today announced an algorithm change that users have been requesting for months? Is it a PR move? Maybe. The latter is certainly supported by Instagram’s development of its own in-app shopping feature. Now not only does one of the most influential companies on the planet know what content you engage with, whose profile you look at and where you are when you post — it also knows what images drive you to make purchases and what time of day you’re most susceptible to advertising. All this valuable data can then be commoditized, under false promises of anonymity, with Facebook as the profiteers. Of course there are arguments that sharing your data can improve your user experience and therefore every site you visit, app you use and streaming service you watch is collecting data for your benefit. For most, it’s not a problem until data is used to help sway elections or target teens, minors and the vulnerable. Digital data is virtually impossible to “delete”.

“We have a basic responsibility to protect peoples’ data,” Zuckerberg repeated in an interview with CNN. “This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened.”

But Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie claims Facebook knew all along.

“Facebook could see it was happening,” Wylie told The Guardian. “Their security protocols were triggered because [Dr Aleksandr] Kogan’s apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, ‘Fine’.”

Therein lies the problem. When you give your data to a central authority you are trusting that company to make good decisions and keep it safe. Once they do something to lose that trust, it’s often too late. You can’t retrospectively take your data back.

The CLOUD Act

On the same day the world was distracted by #deletefacebook, the House of Representatives passed controversial legislation that would allow United States law enforcement agencies to take data from technology companies, even if it’s stored outside the United States. The kicker? This can be enforced without the consent of foreign governments.

The CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) was attached to a much larger Omnibus bill, which dealt with $1.3 trillion in spending, and will now move ahead to the Senate. President Trump has already pledged to sign.

Under the CLOUD Act companies would be required to hand over data to the United States government irrespective of the location of the data or data subject meaning, for example, this could implicate an Australian company simply using a database like Google Drive.

For tech companies operating internationally, foreign governments could threaten to stop business operations in their country, essentially strong arming them into giving up the data. The Act will also give the executive (the President) more power to determine which foreign countries are allowed to subpoena data from tech companies in the United States.

Can’t-trust-the-government concerns aside, the CLOUD Act highlights a weakness in today’s database systems. Typically all of an organization’s data is stored in a centralized cloud database, making it an easy target.

Blockchain As A Solution

Computing power coupled with breakthroughs in cryptography and algorithms have led to the creation of distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies. In its simplest form, a distributed ledger is a database held and updated by each participant, also known as a node, in a large network. Every single node in the network processes every transaction, reaching unique outcomes and then voting on those outcomes to ensure the majority concurs.

When a consensus is reached, the blockchain or distributed ledger is updated and all nodes retain a copy of the ledger. Completely transparent, auditable and immutable. The distributed ledger is what keeps the data secure.

In essence, distributed ledgers and the uprise in blockchain technology challenge the concept of the trust held by centralized authorities, such as banks and governments as well as data-collecting mega corporations looking to make a quick buck from analytics firms or third-party app developers.

The fundamental problem plaguing Facebook is that they agreed to let a third party scrape their data, without control of where that data would go next.

At its least, blockchain technology would enable corporations to add a level of unmodifiable transparency to data tracking. At its best, it would give entities power over who accesses their sensitive information.

And perhaps Mark Zuckerberg would be having a better week.

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