Facebook is in the eye of the storm. The web 2.0 flagship corporation is facing claims due to the exposure of personal data and its use by a third party. Facebook’s business model, like that of most other web 2.0 giants, depends on people voluntarily giving personal information to the platform in exchange for what looks like a free, convenient service: to be connected with their family, friends and other acquaintances. Now, with the Cambridge Analytica debacle, the flaws in Facebook’s web 2.0 platform was laid bare for every user to see.
Can Blockchain Solve Facebook’s Problems?
Bitcoin’s underlying technology could be used to protect Facebook’s data privacy. In an interview for Yahoo, Mitch Steves, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, pointed out that with blockchain technology, people may no longer need to share pictures or other personal data with Facebook. Instead users could share pictures with only specific people and then keep track of where that data goes. It is important to add that it might be even possible to restrict access to the data by separating it into pieces and requiring authorization to view it. Steves believes that blockchain and decentralized systems will become the rule. This would usher in the web 3.0 era, putting web 2.0 companies in jeopardy.
Facebook owns troves of user data belonging to billions. This makes it an immediate target. Malicious actors have an incentive to steal sensitive information, and in many cases, Facebook can just sell it. This is part of the problem that arose with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. As reported by the New York Times, the London-based data mining and analytics firm improperly accessed data belonging to approximately 50 million Facebook users. The stolen data was used to promote fake news campaigns and likely to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S presidential election and the Brexit vote.
The Trump Campaign hired Cambridge Analytica back in June 2016. They ran the campaign’s data operation. In addition, Files-Parscale, a digital marketing firm was also hired to run its online advertising campaigns. This created a situation in which Parscale designed the ads and Cambridge Analytica provided the data for Parscale to target voters. The results of this combination could have game-changing implications, further highlighting the problems that web 2.0 companies that offer convenience in exchange for the data of millions of users, create.
The Origin of the Cambridge Analytica Debacle
It is relatively easy to tempt users who think that everything they do on a web 2.0 platform is for “free”. In earlier 2015, an App “thisisyourdigitallife” developed by Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, was designed to uncover “aspects of user’s personalities”. As many as 270000 users downloaded it and were accessing it via Facebook. The login process in return allowed Facebook to utilize the information that users surrendered to the platform through the app. The app collected basic information such as the city of residence, content they like, information about their friends and other data. Upon revealing that such data will be used for manipulation, Facebook has removed this app and asked Kogan to destroy the data. But once all that data is aggregated and centralized, all bets are off.
Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes for Facebook’s Data Privacy Scandal
These breaches and the inevitable fallout that stems from them, prompted Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg to apologize. His apology reads as follows: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t, then we don’t deserve to serve you.” It seems that Facebook in its present form, really doesn’t deserve the rust of its users, but the fundamental problem has more to do with web 2.0 systems than with Facebook itself. Any other web 2.0 giant could be manipulated, attacked or could end up compromising user data inadvertently.
Time to Deploy Blockchain-Based Solutions
When it comes to privacy and security of data, Blockchain technology can overcome most of the challenges that web 2.0 platforms have. The problem is that it would decentralize these platforms, taking away the sole source of revenue these web 2.0 companies have; their business models might not survive a web 3.0 revolution. Mitch Steves said it clearly: “Blockchain would solve the transparency issue, but it would not solve the control issue you have.” Since in a decentralized world, control is not an issue, users would be compelled to understand that any information they share, will be for ever etched in an immutable distributed data base. Maybe then more people would start treating their data as a precious resource that shouldn’t be given up for free no matter how convenient the services they receive in exchange may seem.