Google. Facebook. Twitter.
All of these tech companies share one thing in common: They offer free services to accumulate user data. By doing this, they’ve pioneered the business model of selling data analysis.
“If you aren’t paying to use a product, you are the product.”
However, does this practice come at a cost? Michael Haupt touches briefly on this topic by equating the accumulation of data by tech companies to the privatization of natural resources like oil, water, and electricity. These natural resources, once subject to capitalistic mechanisms, are often exploited to create immense wealth for small groups of individuals.
As Joe Brewer points out below, this is a problem because it is fundamentally counter-intuitive to progress. Privatization destroys the creative, cooperative, and innovative processes that push a society forward.
Here is how capitalism actually works — use a legal framework of private ownership to extract value from the labor of others. The end game is a system that hoards wealth, stifles innovation, and ultimately destroys the value created by cooperation among those who seek to do things that cannot be done alone. — This Is How Capitalism Actually Works.
From a macroperspective, this can be hard to grasp or conceptualize. So let’s make it concrete by doing a case study of how the privatization of user data has stifled innovation specifically in the area of professional networking.
Prior to 2015, LinkedIn freely offered its user data to anyone and everyone who desired. In fact, they created easily accessible API’s for companies to build on top of. This facilitated an incredible boom of 30,000 applications and companies. However, LinkedIn quickly realized that they could make more money by privatizing this data. In light of this, they released a statement on February 2015 declaring they would significantly restrict the accessibility of their API’s and that full access would only be given to “LinkedIn partners.”
Since then, companies that had relied on LinkedIn’s API have gone to the ever-growing cemetery of tech start-ups. Innovation in the field of professional networking has also stymied and made available only to those who can afford it.
This shift from public to private information is reflected not just in LinkedIn but other professional networking platforms like Glassdoor and Upwork. These companies are financially incentivized to keep information locked up to limit competition amongst one another. This is why you can’t transfer your professional history or reputation that you’ve built up on one platform to another.
As a user, this is should infuriate you because you really aren’t in control of your own personal information. Instead, you are restricted from sharing the work history and reputational value that you’ve built up over the years to other platforms.
So how do we solve this problem? How can we simultaneously facilitate the sharing of information between centralized networking platforms while also putting people back in charge of their own professional history and reputation?
We’re building an open and connected solution allowing users to truly own their data, and enabling applications to communicate and transfer data. — Nick Macario
Dock.io is a decentralized protocol built on the Ethereum blockchain at the full control of the user. Following the core principles of blockchain technology, it will directly address the problems of privatized data in the world of professional networking through user empowerment. It will also seek to facilitate the exchange of user data between other networking platforms by financially motivating them to do so.
For example, if a LinkedIn user wanted to access their data on Remote.com, LinkedIn would pay Remote.com in DOCK tokens. In this way, centralized networking platforms are incentivized to share information with one another thereby fostering an environment for innovation.
Users in Control
Dock.io will empower its users in that they get to decide who gets to see their professional history and the ability to easily transfer this information between participating platforms.
For example, if you want to privately export your data from Remote.com to another networking company, such as Ziprecruiter, Dock will pull that information from Remote and then push it to Ziprecruiter.
And you don’t have to worry about your information being exposed.
The pulled data is private as it is encrypted and stored on IPFS. Now the only person who is able to decrypt and share this information with the different networking platforms will be the user because they hold the private keys.
Once Ziprecruiter receives your profile information from Remote.com, Ziprecruiter can trust that this information is accurate because it can be publicly verified. By utilizing a new technology called Chainpoint, Dock will leave hashes on Ether’s public blockchain that will essentially “point” to specific user information such as work history or a person’s skillset. In other words, this information is privately recorded while simultaneously made available for the whole world to verify.
In this way, Dock.io gives autonomy back in the hands of the users and becomes the “network of networks” to all who utilize its services.
Though this company is in its infant stages, Dock.io represents a paradigm shift that is reflective of the larger cryptocurrency movement. The status quo is no longer acceptable and blockchain technology is the means to change. By providing financial incentives to share information, Dock.io hopes to break the capitalistic trend of privatization and foster innovation once again.
*This article was submitted to Dock.io’s bounty program.