Hackernoon logoPrivacy, Decentralization & Investments: What Do They Have in Common? by@patriciadehemricourt

Privacy, Decentralization & Investments: What Do They Have in Common?

Patricia de Hemricourt Hacker Noon profile picture

@patriciadehemricourtPatricia de Hemricourt

Note: Research for this article was made using PreSearch search engine, from Brave Browser, and the links in all hyperlinked texts have been turned into 2key SmartLinks. These active blockchain-enabled products are described below. They were selected as they share two characteristics:  (a)they are fully or partially decentralized, and (b) they enable users to earn a residual income by using them.

In today’s world, every time you use a browser, every search you run on major search engines, and every time you share a link, some mega-corporation is capitalizing on your online activity, using your data in complex and mostly opaque ways.

The recent Apple-Facebook privacy war draws attention to some of the personalized user data that companies gather online through third-party tracking, but that is only one of the multiple issues born out of the hyper-centralization that characterizes today’s tech mega-platforms, from the GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft) to the emerging sharing economy spearheaded by Airbnb, Uber, and others.

The power concentrated in the hands of a few players outside of the democratic process has even prompted Nevada to plan to launch Innovation Zones.  In these so-called Innovation Zones, companies owning large land areas will be allowed to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts, and courts, and provide government services. Nevada planned legislation is opening the door to a new political system based on corporations' economic power, opening the door to creating effective dictatorships unbridled by the burdensome (to power-hungry wannabe rulers) dictates of democracy.

This hyper-centralization is the direct result of the time gap between adopting new technologies such as Web 2.0 at the turn of the century and the adoption of new legislation curtailing potential abuse, spearheaded by GDPR in 2018.

The emergence of technologies such as distributed ledgers and storage on blockchain paves the way for data decentralization and might create a more transparent and secure environment, overtaking Web 2.0's centralization, surveillance, and exploitative advertising. In time, decentralized infrastructure and application platforms should displace centralized tech giants and allow individuals to own their data rightfully.

To better understand the differences between the Internet and the decentralized net and address common misconceptions concerning cryptocurrencies, let's first compare them on accessibility aspects and practical aspects such as cybercrimes and investment soundness.

Internet vs Decentralized Net

Latency:

One of the most annoying aspects of using decentralized applications is their often slow execution or upload speed. At this early stage, the decentralized net is still in infancy, and latency is the price to pay for pushing its development forward. Despite its apparent slowness compared to today’s Internet, it is still much faster than the Internet of the early days.

Internet

In its early days, accessing content on the Internet was a slow process, yet users put up with the waiting time in order to benefit from the Internet's immense advantages.-

Decentralized Web

As blockchain-based solutions are still in their infancy, latency is endemic to new products, reminiscent of the slow access to the content of the early Internet days. As the Internet grew and spread, latency gradually diminished to reach today's speed. The upcoming 5G is likely to speed it up even more.

As the decentralized network grows, latency is likely also to diminish.

Criminal Activities:

Now that Bitcoin value is soaring and both Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are increasingly included in reputable asset management funds, less ink is flowing about crypto’s early fame for facilitating a slew of criminal activities. Yet, even then, this focus on the purported dangers of crypto conveniently ignored the criminal activity on the regular Internet. 

Internet

The Internet we all use today still facilitates a number of crimes, from pedophilia and terrorist propaganda to the dissemination of fake news, not to mention the growing business of cybercrimes enabling identity theft, fraudulent use of credit card, and more, not to mention the abusive use of personal data done by mega-corporation, with which the legal system is slowly, slowly catching up. Yet, the Internet is now an integral part of most of our lives.

Decentralized Web

Bitcoin was the first iteration of a decentralized network. In 2020, the criminal share of all cryptocurrency activity fell to just 0.34% of $10 billion in transaction volume. To put things in context, the UN estimates that between 2% and 5% of global GDP ($1.6 to $4 trillion) annually is connected with money laundering and illicit activity.

Investments:

Investing is always fraught with risks, and investing in the digital world is no exception. However, though cryptocurrency investment is highly risky, one should not forget the fortunes made and lost in the Internet's early days.

Internet

The early 2000s saw a flurry of investments in myriads of .com startups, as investors all wanted in this newfangled source of fast high returns. When the dot.com bubble burst in 2002, investors’ losses reached an estimated $5 trillion. Yet, the Internet survived, and fortunes were made.
As investments in dot.com were typically reserved to VCs and accredited investors, the general public only suffered minor shockwaves. 

Decentralized Web

The explosion of valueless crypto-currencies dubbed shitcoins that characterized 2018 gave cryptocurrencies, in general, a bad name. Crypto-speculation is still a domain reserved to a select few, as people with little knowledge of the ins-and-outs of what makes a cryptocurrency a sound investment are likely to fall prey to scams and pump-and-dump schemes. Crypto-speculation carries risks similar to penny-stocks investments, famously popularized in the Wolf of Wall Street movie.
The main difference is that investing in crypto is open to everyone, not only to accredited investors.

Yet, unlike the Internet, the Decentralized Web offers opportunities for everyone to invest by doing, without risking a cent. The three working applications listed in this article enable users to earn cryptocurrencies by doing what they usually do, using a browser, searching, and sharing links.

The rewards earned are in the applications' native token. These tokens' value might "moon," or crash, meaning the cash value earnings from using the solutions reviewed below can either rise dramatically, fall to zero, or remain stable based on the fluctuation of their native token.

Let’s have a closer look at the active decentralized solutions meeting the criteria and used to write this article.
The criteria are:

  • fully or partially decentralized

and

  • redistributing wealth.

Brave Browser

Mainstream browsers all collect data. Though it is usually possible to limit the amount of data collected, doing so might require adding extensions or other light or heavy tech-savvy manipulations.

This data is typically used to generate revenue for the company owning the browser. These revenues are not shared with the user. In an independent study of browser privacy by Pr. Douglas J. Leith,  Dublin Trinity College School of Computer Sciences and Statistics, Brave Browser was by far the most private of the six browsers studied -  Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Brave Browser, Microsoft Edge, and Yandex.

Privacy: In that study, Brave Browser default settings showed no use of identifiers allowing tracking of IP address overtime and no sharing of the details of web pages visited with backend servers. For users, the only manipulation needed to ensure privacy is to leave the default privacy shields up.

Customizing privacy settings is user-friendly and intuitive from the settings interface and is future-proof to a certain extent as it includes specific settings for Ethereum blockchain compatibility. These settings can be ignored by general users who do not interact with Ethereum.

Modifying the settings for specific sites is easily done from the Brave icon displayed in the search bar.

Revenue Sharing: Brave Browser revenue model is partially based on selling advertising space. However, 70% of the advertising revenue is redistributed to the users who have opted in to view ads from the Brave Rewards options.

These revenues are distributed monthly to opted-in users in BAT tokens, the Brave Browser native crypto-currency. When connecting their Brave account to Uphold wallet, users can opt to have their earnings distributed in another cryptocurrency.

Pros

  • Currently, the best browser to ensure privacy
  • Effective at blocking ads
  • Slick customizable interface 
  • Runs extremely well
  • Enables marginal earnings
  • Fully integrates IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) protocol
  • Partially decentralized

Cons:

  • Some websites are broken when Brave shields are up, requiring taking all or some of the shields down to access the website’s full content.
  • Payment of ad revenue to users is still buggy, often delayed, and sometimes lost or partial.
  • Connecting to the Uphold wallet is still complex for the non-crypto crowd.
  • Transferring earnings from the Uphold wallet is still complex for the non-crypto crowd.
  • No Maximum Token supply.
  • Still partially centralized.

Competing Web 3.0 browsers:

  • Opera
  • Status

Competing wealth-redistribution ad-serving browser

None found

Recent Developments:

Native token:

BAT

Pre-Search

Mainstream search engines collect users' data and use them in opaque ways. Though improvements in reducing user data collection, such as the recent Google announcement to remove third-party tracking cookies from Google Chrome, are steps in the right direction. Yet, it still fails to provide users with transparency about the use made of their data directly collected by Google itself.

Pre Search is an open, decentralized search engine that ensures search privacy and rewards users with PRE tokens.

These PRE tokens can be traded on major exchanges or used for Keyword Staking to purchase ad space displayed on top of the search results.

The PreSearch interface looks like this, reminiscent of Google's early interface, but with the option to switch to other leading search engines by clicking on their icon in the left vertical menu bar. Currently, search engine options are Google and DuckDuckgo, Crypto-related queries can be redirected to Etherscan and CoinMarketCap, and search on social media platforms are Facebook and Twitter.

Clicking on the three dots redirects you to more options:

PreSearch top menu bar displays your current earnings and a user icon that redirects you to your account.

From your account page, you can access more general information, actions, and data.

To better understand how privacy and keywords staking on Pre Search work, watch this video (also hyperlinked with a 2key SmartLink described below.)

Pros: 

  • Redistributes wealth
  • Privacy
  • Partially decentralized

Cons:

  • Still a bit clunky
  • Payment of eligible PRE token earned through searching can only be withdrawn after you earned over 1000 tokens

Competing privacy-protecting search engine:

Competing wealth-redistribution search engine:

None found

Recent Developments:

Native token:

PRE

2key SmartLinks

A blockchain solution for content distribution and viral marketing, 2key SmartLinks integrates incentives to share links in every SmartLink.
When a SmartLink is opened, all the people in the referral chain receive a fraction of the reward upon conversion (the conversion typically is a click, but it can also be, depending on the type of SmartLink used, current options are purchase or donation, with more options in the pipeline.) 

For default SmartLinks, the entire process is fully automated and is barely more complex than shortening a link with bit.ly. From the website, copy-paste any URL, click SmartLink, and follow instructions. Once you have an account, creating a SmartLink is done in three clicks.

There are two kinds of SmartLinks, free and paid.

Both are automatically entered into the Reputation Mining program that rewards referrers with Qi Points for sharing links considerately and penalizes spammers. Every week, the epoch reward is divided between referrers in proportion to their reputation points.

Advertisers or anyone wanting to boost its content reach can add an extra reward to further incentivize sharing.

Both link creators and links sharer earn Qi points yielding 2key tokens as follows:

Users can check their earnings at any time from their dashboard.

Users can visualize the referral path of the link they shared or created and access detailed statistics.

90% of revenues generated by sponsored SmartLinks is redistributed to 2key.network users. A full description of 2key tokenomics is available here.

When sharing a SmartLink, a preview window is displayed to the recipient:

Clicking “Open Link” opens the original URL and earns the person who clicks 1 QI point. Clicking Refer & Earn adds the user code to the SmartLink. Downstream clicks benefit the entire referral chain as explained in the QI points table above. Additional rewards added by SmartLink sponsors are also distributed to the entire referral chain in direct proportion to each user’s activity.

Creating a 2key SmartLink takes 3 clicks https://youtu.be/tS8K62PhdTc

Pros:

Cons:

  • Preview window leads to a small percentage of lost clicks
  • Latency

Competing Blockchain content-distribution or blockchain marketing active solutions:

None Found

Competing Blockchain content-distribution or blockchain marketing redistributing wealth:

None found

Recent Developments:
First blockchain app listed on Zoom Marketplace - Yahoo Finance

Native token:

2KEY

So, now you know what to do to protect your privacy, be an active part of building a decentralized web-promoting wealth-redistribution, and earn a residual income that might sharply increase in value during the coming decade. Start using decentralized apps that let you earn like the three described above.

Tags

Join Hacker Noon

Create your free account to unlock your custom reading experience.