Cryptocurrency, blockchain technology could help Facebook recover from massive data scandal

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New York. — Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc, speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Zuckerberg, under stern questioning by US House lawmakers about the social network’s privacy practices, said Facebook does collect digital information on consumers who aren’t registered as users, acknowledging something that has been reported but not publicly spelled out by the company.

Emotions continue to run high as more news is disclosed around Facebook’s massive data scandal. This week, Cambridge Analytica’s former Business Development Director, Brittany Kaiser, told British lawmakers that the political data firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), used numerous questionnaires to gather data from unknowing Facebook users.

Kaiser provided a written testimony to Britain’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMSC) on Tuesday, noting, “I am aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys which were done by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login.” In particular, Kaiser highlighted one quiz called, “sex compass.”

The data gathered from these quizzes are in addition to the now infamous “Thisisyourdigitallife” personality quiz – the Facebook-linked app that gained attention last month for collecting personal data from 50 million Facebook users (a figure that Facebook has now admitted could be as high as 87 million) without their consent.

Through the “Thisisyourdigitallife” app, CA member, Aleksandr Kogan, paid Facebook users in exchange for a detailed personality test, which was supposed to be used for “academic research” purposes. While it was reported that approximately 270,000 users consented to having their data collected, it was leaked last month that the app also pulled personal data from the Facebook friends of those users. That information — in the form of up to 87 million raw profiles — was then sold by the researcher to Cambridge Analytica, which used the data to manipulate Facebook users during the Trump campaign.

“I believe it is almost certain that the number of Facebook users whose data was compromised through routes similar to that used by Kogan is much greater than 87 million; and that both Cambridge Analytica and other unconnected companies and campaigns were involved in these activities,” Kaiser added in her statement to DCMSC.

Yet due to the exploitative nature of the way in which data is used today, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this is the case.

“A handful of incredibly powerful centralised companies — that are doing something so technical that people do not understand — have had the ability to wield an unknown amount of power and exploit people up until this point,” Kaiser stated in a Bustle article.

In an effort to protect user data moving forward, Kaiser believes that personal data should be treated the same as property. Additionally, Kaiser notes that data should be portable, with individuals having the right to delete and move their data among various platforms.

Blockchain Technology Lets Users Own Their Data

In order to solve the problems associated with user data being exploited on social media networks, Ly co-founded “Hub,” a “Human Trust Protocol” that uses blockchain technology to facilitate trust across the Internet.

Incentivising meaningful transactions and interactions between strangers and establishing persistent, portable reputation histories is the project’s central focus. In other words, the project focuses on user control over “reputation data.”

The Hub project was created with the goal of solving the problem of virtual trust by allowing users to assess trustworthiness at a distance across applications, Ly said.

We facilitate a distributed ledger where any person can store and access their reputation information on a blockchain, e.g. actual, verified outcomes based on past interactions. In such a system, data is proprietary to a user and only given out by them in specified situations.

In other words, by building a digital reputation, every user has the power to decide what reputation information they want to reveal in a particular use case.

And to Kaiser’s point about being able to move user data across various networks, the “stored reputation” on Hub is portable in different domains. For example, a good reputation using Airbnb services combined with consistent on-time rent payments, can help users receive a loan, as their gained reputation will be spread across multiple domains. Additionally, users decide what part of their data they’d like to reveal for certain use cases.

Moreover, rather than having the protocol’s value come from extracting personal data (as in the case of Facebook and CA), the value of Hub’s Human Trust Protocol instead lies in the decentralization of data controlled by users.

This is where cryptocurrency enters the picture. In order to incentivise trust between users and the participation of sharing reputation data in the Hub protocol, a native token called “Hub” Token is used. Hub works in the following way: during interactions and transactions participants pledge stakes. When a task is successful, participants earn a positive reputation and get their stake back in addition to Hub Token rewards.

Should Facebook Adopt Blockchain Technology?

While the concept behind Hub sounds similar to the Black Mirror episode, “Nosedive,” a model like this one could help solve the problems Facebook is encountering with the exploitation of personal user data.

Interestingly enough, before Facebook’s data scandal made headlines, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a Facbeook post that his new years resolution for 2018 is to explore the use of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.

“Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.”

Zuckerberg then mentioned that encryption and cryptocurrency could help solve these problems by putting power back into the user’s hands. However, this would also leave Facebook at a loss of control – a shift that could be powerful for users but not so profitable for Facebook.

Yet as the #DeleteFacebook hashtag continues to gain traction — it appeared more than 10,000 times within a two-hour period on Twitter following the news of the Facebook data scandal — Facebook might want to start looking more closely at blockchain technology and cryptocurrency sooner rather than later. — Forbes.

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