One of the proposed advantages of blockchain technology is the chance for customers to control their own data privacy. That is an immensely powerful idea, particularly in the age of information. For instance, what if a person can confirm his or her identity or credit history without a firm explicitly knowing what that data says? How can we get access to digital services without giving away a piece of our identity every time? Is this actually attainable? Are we just too late?

What are the best values to increase around?

If one person takes a sip of water from a drinking fountain, the device is not going to capture his or her fingerprints and DNA. However, we have normalized very different standards for our online interactions. It is not intended to be a critique against centralized technological services, which has actually proved immeasurable value to society. It is actually more of a question: What are the right values to build around? And, do we have the ability to do this better?

It will not be easy to overcome ideological divides, but the beauty of the internet is the one which permits us to create small silos for each mode of thought, and hopefully encourage interaction between these communities, without forcing them to sacrifice their ideas.

Creating privacy-preserving standards is not going to be easy – in fact, for lack of coordination, it may probably never occur. That is not to say that we should not try something different. Why be satisfied with the Equifax breach or the Facebook fiasco? While we may not have the ability to rein everything in, maybe we could at least provide some direction to this unrestrained chaos.

The Data Transfer Project

On the 20th of July, Google has introduced the Data Transfer Project, which is an open source platform that promotes universal data portability. This initiative was also joined by some other technology giants like Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook. It is fascinating to see the slight differences in marketing lingo between the services.

For example, the post of Twitter was entitled “Putting people first on data portability,” whereas the championed of Facebook was entitled “Working Together to Give People More Control of Their Data.” It subtly appears to reflect the various impetus behind each of the companies.

The project strives to permit the users to transfer their data between services. One of the use cases proposed in the white paper of the project is moving photos from an existing platform to a new facility. Here is an explanation:

A user will discover a new photo printing service which offers beautiful and innovative photo book formats, but their photos will be stored on their social media account. With the Data Transfer 5 Project, users could visit a website or app which is offered by the photo printing service, as well as initiate a transfer directly from their social media platform to the photo book service.

Another suggested use case is to change the music providers as of what seems to be an ethical complaint:

A user will not agree with the privacy policy of their music service. They want to stop using it immediately, but they don’t want to lose the playlists which they have created. Using this open-source software, they could use the export functionality of the original provider to save a copy of their playlists to the cloud. This also enables them to import the playlists to a new provider, or multiple providers, once when they decide on a new service.

How will the project reshape interactions between the users and enterprises?

This is actually a fantastic project. When one thinks about how the users became content creators, the DTP could create a massive shift in the corporation-consumer power dynamic. And, it is easy to imagine how this is going to lead to greater scientific achievements, as well as higher business advances and superior user experiences overall.

However, we have to consider how this project could actually reshape interactions between the users and enterprises. Is this going to become a new standard across industries? Would customers not join a service if it lacks this data portability? As one writer noted, there is actually a fruit-sized hole in the membership of the initiative: Apple – even though that is probably not too surprising given the entire designs ethos of the company.

However, we must not make any mistake: the Data Transfer Project does not address the fundamental privacy issues which have reared their ugly heads in the last few years. As the white paper stated, it is worth noting that the Data Transfer Project does not include any automated deletion architecture. Once when the user verified that the desired data is migrated, they would have to delete their data from their original service using the deletion tool of the service if they wanted the data removed.

Maybe the repossessing data is like grasping sand in a fist of a person. The harder one clenches, the more seems to escape. However, a partnership of this magnitude could profoundly shape our online interactions, and it is essential to give airtime to alternatives. It is sure that the blockchain has its limitations, but as we consider the values that we are building around, we have to recognize when we, ourselves, continue to be the products.


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