Blockchain: The Price Of Privacy And How To Take Back Control

Blockchain, News, Opinion | June 18, 2020 By:

The current global health pandemic has permeated every facet of society irrespective of location, gender, race, or social status while causing dramatic industry-agnostic disruption. The ongoing crisis has also amplified pressure on healthcare professionals to an alarming degree, and highlighted key sector processes plagued with inefficiencies. With more than seven million global cases, the virus has cast a spotlight not only on the inequalities within our global health systems, but on many other areas too — including data privacy. 

High-profile hacks, security scandals, and data privacy breaches have been rife over the past few years, highlighting glaring data management inefficiencies across a multitude of industries. We need only look as far as the scandal that emerged from Cambridge Analytica’s work with Facebook, where up to 87 million Facebook users’ information had been acquired, despite the users not explicitly consenting to this collation. Since the onset of the Coronavirus, many countries have been taking unprecedented measures to track, trace, and contain the spread of the illness, leading to significant privacy challenges. 

Today, as the wheels slowly begin to turn again in the world economy, the vast majority of employees are still working remotely where possible — and evidence points to a dramatic rise in the number of data breaches and phishing attacks occuring online. As internet users, we have become blasé about potential risks associated with mundane online activities such as visiting a new website, setting up a new account, or carrying out virtual transactions, and do not demonstrate enough vigilance when it comes to accepting new data policies and agreements, clicking them away with the touch of a button. There is an unmistakable ambiguity around the journey of this information once boxes are carelessly ticked – we simply don’t know where this data goes and what third parties are subsequently granted access. Don’t we deserve to have autonomy over these decisions? 

Data privacy has been considered one of the most prevalent challenges of the modern world, typically characterised by a framework that supports the interests of enterprises over individuals. The process of managing data has always been one sided, with the user having little say in what happens to their information and who it is shared with. The idea that our information has become our most valuable asset has never been more relevant, strengthening the case for said data to be protected at every turn. Thankfully, technological advances, such as tamperproof innovations like blockchain, have the potential to dramatically transform the data privacy landscape presenting an opportunity for us to re-set the scales in favour of citizens. 

The emergence of blockchain technology is particularly timely given the increased prominence of new meaningful data privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Tightening regulatory constraints, along with the potential of blockchain technology can combine beautifully to create a 

decentralized, user-centric approach to the management of our information. For too long, individuals have paid a heavy price trying to protect their privacy, now blockchain can be a catalyst for changing the face of data privacy as we know it, allowing for secure, safe, and permission-based data transactions. 

While the law of the land is definitely playing catch up, there is still time to ensure future generations don’t have their privacy rights undercut by corporate interests. Data privacy is a balancing act; while the sharing of information is intrinsically linked to the smooth function of the global economy, the rights of the individual have to be the central consideration. Deploying blockchain technology can mitigate the risk of data breaches, allowing individuals to be fully engaged in the journey of their Personally Identifiable Information (PII), from start to finish.