If you are one of the 2.4 billion active Facebook users, the probability that your data has been leaked is around 17%, given the recent news of 419 million accounts being exposed. This means that, unless something changes, every sixth active user could lose control over their personal data. Again and again, no matter the government or the company managing personal data or how secure their systems are, personal data leaks happen all the time. But what are the fundamental problems of centralization and how can we rescue our data from criminals, greedy marketers and corrupt governments?
The last two weeks have brought us tremendous news about leaks. The most recent concerning the aforementioned database of 419 million Facebook accounts was found available to download on the internet and complete with details such as names, phone numbers, gender and country of residence. A while ago, Mastercard officially reported about 90,000 exposed accounts to European Union authorities.
Once, when I was living in Ukraine, I went to a bank to apply for a credit card. I asked the clerk why she had not requested any proof of income to grant me a credit limit. She replied that they had already checked the database of the pension fund. Any salary is taxed at a certain amount by the state pension fund, so by seeing my paid taxes, they could calculate my income. “Oh, my God,” I thought. “They aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they are using a stolen database with the personal data of everyone in the country.”
Hopefully, there is no need to prove that the security of personal data cannot be promised by anybody. In some cases, the right to personal privacy will be ignored, while in other cases, users may never know about the violations (thanks for the tip, Edward Snowden). For some people, these violations of privacy threaten well-being and freedom, such as the Chinese government hacking the iPhone’s infrastructure to capture Uyghurs living in China.
And the reason for that is centralization. Large clusters of personal datasets are concentrated on the servers of service providers, which make this data vulnerable.
We need to change everything fundamentally in terms of how we manage personal data. And it can be only done with the help of blockchain and government cooperation.
During the last few years, initial coin offering (ICO)-driven attempts were made to “disrupt” the digital ID industry. I don’t want to mention any of these projects. Maybe some of them had sincere intentions, but they appeared to be premature in solving issues at global and national levels.