Silicon Valley’s social media giants, foremost among them Facebook, have come under fire in recent weeks after troubling revelations regarding their mass data collection practices. Now, notable civil liberties groups are asking these companies to promise to do better. But why ask for more trust when a new age of trustlessness seems to be dawning via blockchain tech? It’s a question worth asking at the beginning of what appears to be a new zeitgeist.
ACLU, Others Ask for Guarantees
After revelations that data science firm Cambridge Analytica harvested millions of Facebook profiles as part of psychometric campaigns for propagandistic, for-hire electioneering, Facebook and others are in hot water. Now, rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Color of Change are demanding new guarantees going forward.
Specifically, these groups are asking Facebook and its top tech peers to sign a newly drafted Security Pledge. The pledge would see these companies commit to better guaranteeing users’ rights and privacy:
“We need to know that we are in control of our personal information. Commit to meaningful transparency, including providing users full access to all data you have collected and a list of all third parties given access to that data. In addition, provide users full control, which includes requiring explicit opt-in consent, over the retention, sharing, or use of their information, including all data sharing with third parties. Adopt auditing procedures to ensure that shared data is used consistently with the users’ preferences.”
A series of problems that seem like prime fodder for blockchain solutions, no?
Why Trust If You Don’t Have To?
Asking such a question is still partially rhetorical for now, as blockchain tech and the cryptoverse have their own maturing to do. But blockchain solutions can offer data control and transparency in ways much stronger than a pledge that’s only words-deep, not secured by binding software.
To that end, at this year’s Blockstack Berlin event, legendary cypherpunk Nick Szabo held a presentation in which he called trust a “vulnerability.” He also called for more decentralized blockchain solutions that could mitigate the need for trusted third parties.
— John Light | lightco.in (@lightcoin) March 2, 2018
So if trust needs to be minimized, asking for a non-binding Security Pledge is as good as worthless. On the other hand, building decentralized apps (DApps) that provide similar services to Facebook and their ilk while simultaneously mitigating trust is where real progress will be found.
So maybe it’s time for the ACLU to start throwing its weight behind DApps, not promises.
What’s your take? Do you think blockchain’s day is coming? Sound off in the comments below.
Images via Reuters, The Hill