When news broke that Facebook leaked the data of more than 50 million users to Cambridge Analytica — a third party data firm that is most known for creating profiles with targeting messaging for the Trump campaign — I was shocked.
As a developer who has built Facebook-integrated apps in the past, I knew that Facebook had certain measures in place to prevent data breaches like this from happening. For example, users had to give permission for the apps to use their data. The problem was, Facebook had no control over what happened to that data once a user gave permission.
Facebook knew they had vulnerabilities that allowed Cambridge Analytica access to all of that user data. They told them privately to delete it, but, obviously, Cambridge Analytica didn’t.
This isn’t the first massive data leak to happen in the past few years, and it won’t be the last — it happened again just recently with Under Armour.
But the good news is, there’s opportunity for prevention using blockchain technologies. Here’s how.
You’ve probably noticed that 9 times out of 10, when someone says, “I’m deleting my Facebook,” they don’t actually do it. They either back out and stay, or create a new account and come back.
Part of the reason for this is because there’s no other platform as big as Facebook for people to go to. People want to stay in touch with their friends and family, but there’s no other platform that offers that ability in the way Facebook does. So people end up stuck.
The best solution to that problem would be to replicate some of Facebook’s features by building them on the blockchain, thus creating a decentralized social media platform.
The new, decentralized platform could have many of the same features — a news feed, group interaction, graphs — but with a much-improved voting process for sorting through “fake news” and protecting personal data.
Because of the abilities that come with blockchain, users would have much more say in what data stays private and what data is shared publicly to the blockchain. All of the data would be on the blockchain, but the user’s private data would be encrypted and could only be unlocked by that user. When the user decides to share more data, they would provide friends or third party apps the ability to unlock that data, thus being in full control of who has access to what.
The combination of stricter criteria for news identification and data sharing means that users’ news feeds would be more reputable.
If this hypothetical blockchain platform existed, people might move toward decentralized social media and away from centralized platforms. This could be huge.
But we have to build it first.
Some aspects of this idea already exist in pieces. For example, voting, reputation, and sharing content.
One of the major reasons causing a slow-down in the development process is that Facebook and platforms like it require millions of transactions per second. Proof-of-work blockchains don’t allow for that many — yet.
Even blockchains with more efficient consensus mechanisms like delegated proof of stake fail to reach that huge volume today. In a few years, however, it could be there, especially with more adoption from bigger companies like Google and Amazon.
In the meantime, it’s possible to have a partially decentralized Facebook application until the current blockchains mature to allow for further expansion.
With Google and IBM announcing that they’re beginning work on their own blockchains, this future decentralized social media might not be too far off. It’s important to keep in mind that this rise in the blockchain doesn’t mean the death of centralized companies — it’s just a better move for certain aspects of the organization.
That’s because decentralization can help increase user trust — and without the trust from your users, a company will continuously run into trouble.
It doesn’t matter what kind of security measures a company takes — just look at Facebook. By remaining completely centralized, they continue to run the risk of breaches and leaks. Decentralization, through the means of the blockchain, is the future of security and data privacy.