In a blog post yesterday (August 15th), Coinbase addressed the issue of how identity is used in the current climate – and how they are working towards changing this, with the introduction of a “distributed systems team”.
The Issue of Control
The issue that Coinbase are referring to, of course, is that of what happens to our data when we provide it to third parties. From information in emails to personal data we provide when we sign up for products and subscriptions, everything is easy to copy and could ultimately used in fraudulent activity, such as identity theft. But while this may seem unlikely to those who haven’t been victims or known people who have, the undeniable truth is that persona data is being used every single day to make money. Facebook users receive targeted ads, and search banners across sites display holiday destinations and products that browsers have recently been looking at. Data is a huge source of revenue – but the revenue is falling into the hands of giant marketing firms. For now.
Taking the Power Back
It has long been suggested that blockchain is the technology that will give people their data back, and now Coinbase is looking to change the way in which they operate, to achieve precisely that. As the blog puts it:
Think about how this applies to something like a Social Security number. Every time you want to prove who you are with your SSN, you need to give away a copy of it. That copy has exactly the same power as the original, so when there’s a data breach with copies of your data it puts your identity at risk. A decentralized identity will let you prove that you own an identity, or that you have a relationship with the Social Security Administration, without making a copy of that identity. If you stretch your imagination a little further, you can imagine this applying to your photos, social media posts, and maybe one day your passport too.
The distributed systems team are looking at ways to more comprehensively integrate identities with blockchains, so that more personal information remains provably in the hands of its rightful owners. And the real key take-away for users is that the issue doesn’t stop at regaining control over sensitive information; by extension, they would then own the right to market their data if they so wished. Big data companies aren’t going to disappear, so they would then have to start going directly to the source of the data – the sole owner – rather than paying other large companies for access to records. And if – and when – this happens, then blockchain will really have proved its worth in the data industry.
Do you feel that your data is distributed around the web too easily at the moment? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.