Blockchain and data privacy - who does your information belong to?

January 23, 2019

In March 2018 news broke of political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s use of nearly 87 million Facebook users’ data in order to influence election results both in the US and abroad. This brought data security and ownership firmly in the public eye. In fact, since late 2018, Facebook itself has been embroiled in an ongoing slew of allegations claiming the social network provided private user data to large corporations to be used for pin-point targeted advertising.

These types of events may lead people to wonder whether corporations know more about them than they know themselves. After all, Cambridge Analytica admitted that they’ve got around 5,000 data points on each citizen in the US! It seems absurd, but considering the vast amount information collected by websites, smartphones, smartwatches, personal assistants like Alexa and Siri, it’s actually not that difficult to grasp. Of course there is a debate around whether people actually own their personal data, or not.

Regardless of the answer, people want more control over their personal data, who they allow access to it, and what is done with it. Blockchain technology might just be the answer.

There are a number of reasons why blockchain technology may be the key to data privacy:

Decentralized and Distributed
Many of recent data breaches, such as that of Yahoo and Sony’s Playstation Network, originated from a centralized source, giving whoever is executing the breach access to a wealth of information all at once. A blockchain spreads over multiple sources in a decentralized manner, meaning that data does not reside in one particular place. This makes it less vulnerable to large-scale attacks, meaning that data is more secure.

Transparency
Blockchains are transparent by design. Each block of information is visible to everyone in the chain, making it easy for consumers to see exactly where their data comes from, who is using it, and what they’re using it for. It also allows users to see exactly where their data is. The transparency of the blockchain also means that users can see who adds data to the chain, and what happens to the data.

Safe and Secure
One of the major features of blockchain technology is the reliance on extremely strong encryption, signatures and time-stamping. This combination makes it a very secure place to store and manage data. What’s more, users of the blockchain can decide what they do with their data, like sell it or share it with others. Unlike other data storage systems, blockchain technology gives users true ownership of their data.

The GDPR police
In May 2018 the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. These regulations are designed to protect the personal data of consumers in Europe, and require not only European businesses, but businesses outside of Europe who deal with European customers, to adhere to a strict set of rules regarding personal data. These regulations include things like the right of consumers to know what personal data is stored, how it’s being used, and be notified when their data has been affected by a breach.

Solving blockchain’s GDPR problem
One of the most important regulations as far as blockchain technology is concerned is the right of consumers to delete their data from the internet. This is a concern for blockchain owners, since data in the chain is immutable and cannot be changed, and even if it was possible, deleting a certain set of data will compromise the integrity of the entire chain — one of the major advantages of blockchain technology.

However, private, or permissioned, blockchains may be the answer. In private blockchains, such as that used by VINchain, users need to have access to the chain in order to access data. Private blockchains also feature smart contracts that allow users to manage their data, with the ability to revoke access. This makes the content invisible to others, and thus more secure.

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