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Let’s Treat Our Data As a Currency

Last updated: | 3 min read

Pavel Bains is the CEO of Bluzelle, a decentralized data ecosystem that allows individuals and businesses to control and monetise their data. The company provides a decentralized database that manages and stores data through sharding to achieve security and scale.

Source: iStock/peterhowell

Today’s digital economy is characterised by the generation and commodification of one key intangible asset – data. Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created, but people and companies still don’t quite realise how valuable a source of income it could become.

The sooner we start to treat data as a currency, many of today’s data problems will simply ebb away. This starts with assuming control over it. Currently, we have very little control over our data. When we delete it from Facebook, there is no proof they don’t keep records of it. Meanwhile, many of the start-ups and smaller companies we hand our data to, many of whom go bankrupt, will sell it on to generate revenue.

Blockchain was designed to disrupt financial systems and change how money is controlled. By applying the decentralization principles to data, we can do the same.

This will create new business models and applications that give control to individuals. Data wallets can determine who has access to data, and consumers can turn off that access when they choose. There can be proof on a blockchain that Facebook can no longer see my data.

Let’s explore how this new data model can put an end to many of today’s data problems.

Data Losses

In the tech scene, no problem has so egregiously presented itself as the difficulty of data protection.

A seemingly unending string of corporate data breaches are a constant reminder that digital data is rarely safe. For instance, when Verizon acquired Yahoo! in 2017, it was unceremoniously revealed that a 2013 data breach at Yahoo! compromised all three billion user accounts. Unfortunately, while the scope is staggering, the crime is not uncommon. Other headline-grabbing breaches at companies including Equifax, Ashley Madison, and even the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management illuminate the problem.

Moreover, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal serves as a reminder that even data that isn’t stolen can still be used for malicious purposes.

Data losses have already led to fake credit card transactions, witnesses at risk of physical harm or intimidation, offenders at risk from vigilantes, falsified land registry records, mortgage fraud and more.

Data Breaches

Many of the most devastating data breaches are the result of sophisticated DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that overwhelm a company’s servers to expose vulnerabilities. The prevalence of DDoS attacks doubled in the last six months of 2017, and it continues to be a dominate vulnerability for many companies.

Blockchain principles renders these attacks useless because the distributed ledger lacks a single point of attack. Since DDoS attempts can’t simultaneously overload thousands of servers located around the world, it cannot access decentralized platforms in this way. As research and consulting firm McKinsey notes, “Encryption methods can never be 100 percent safe, but blockchain technology can make similar breaches a great deal more difficult to achieve.”

Moreover, the blockchain’s ability to tokenize information and the emergence of zero knowledge storage protocols makes this technology the best defense against the deluge of devastating data breaches that continue to capture our attention.

Data Retention

Data storage is costly and risky. Not only does this data need to remain secure, it also has to be accessible and usable. Frustratingly, despite GDPR, we still have very little control over our data. At this time, there is no scientific means to ensure data collected on an individual is in fact deleted, when that person asks for it to be purged.

However, decentralized ledgers are a brilliant blend of security, usability and permanence.

That’s the fundamental premise of decentralized systems. Online data doesn’t have to be temporary or vulnerable. It offers long-term data retention without compromising functionality. There can be proof on a blockchain that Facebook can no longer see my data. As the digital continues to advance at a rapid rate, it’s increasingly critical to address its flaws, and blockchain tech arrives as a just-in-time solution to the data crisis that can plague its progress.

Data Clogs

Any centralized or distributed approach to data storage is prone to hit limits in terms of the scale to which it can reach, as well as provide non-deterministic performance metrics.

Fortunately, using the decentralization aspects of blockchain stands ready to provide tangible improvements to several components of data management. Most importantly, this isn’t a general claim. The blockchain is poised to positively impact specific elements of our online data.