Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, recently showed the intent of putting Facebook connect on blockchain, which could potentially answer all the privacy concerns of the users that rose after the Cambridge Analytica case. Zuckerberg thought that this blockchain integrated Facebook connect could give users the power of granting access to third-party apps. Zuck said in his interview;
A use of blockchain that I am potentially interested in, although I haven’t figured out a way to make this work out, is around authentication and granting access of your information to different services, basically replacing the notion of what we have with Facebook connect with something that’s distributed.
Facebook connect is a tool that helps users to connect to thousands of third-party applications without having to sign up for each one of them. Facebook allows the applications to extract the data which is required for the particular platform and signing in is made a lot easier. The question of privacy, however, still remains. Facebook has already been bashed for privacy infringement and extracting user data for advertisements.
Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm that uses data analysis combined with strategic communication during the electoral process, extracted the data of a huge number of users on Facebook to aid the campaign of the 2016 U.S. elections by identifying user behavior through their data. It was reported that 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested for Cambridge Analytica in the data acquisition scandal.
It is also alleged that Donald Trump’s (U.S. President) campaign grew to be a huge success due to data acquisition, which was indirectly extracted through Facebook auth and app permissions. Zuckerberg had to testify in front of the Congress for all the allegations, but even if Facebook stops extracting user data, there has to be a transparent and secure system by which users can choose what data third-party applications extract from a person’s profile on Facebook.
What is an “auth”?
Internet users, one way or another, come across one click authorizations every day like the ones shown below,
They sign into other applications for a user, eliminating the fuss of putting all the personal information on various platforms again and again. These auths do not allow the user to control what data they should give the third-party applications. This gives rise to blockchain based auth systems.
Talking to BlockPublisher, Hammad Tariq, CEO of IOLogics UK & developer of Timski (Decentralized slack) stated;
This fundamentally changes the way we use the internet today as now the user is in the center of the new internet with full control of what’s happening with his/her data and the usage history.
The incident of Cambridge Analytica evolved the user thinking process to be skeptical relating to everything happening on the internet and made them incline towards more secure and transparent alternatives. This brought the need for a decentralized auth system that could counter the negative reputation of Facebook, by giving the user the ability to decide what data to provide to the applications, instead of a centralized party doing it for them.
Blockchain auths, provide the users the liberty to create and manage their own identities. The user decides what information he/she wants to put in private keys and what information should third-parties be allowed to use. They can also determine security levels for their own data.
“Blockstack is a new internet and a browser that makes it easy for users as well as the developers to access blockchain based apps and create them, respectively,” writes Abeer Anwar from BlockPublisher. Blockstack is one of the pioneers of blockchain based auths, developers have made dApps which use their one-click auth on the platform.
Apart from the decentralized auth system, Zuckerburg has shown a surprising interest in blockchain over the past year or so. A while back, Facebook announced job openings for blockchain related people. According to their careers page, they have openings spanning from blockchain engineers to product managers. Another example of Facebook looking to explore the blockchain space is the acquisition of Chainspace, the blockchain startup that focused primarily on solving the scalability issue.
Will the Facebook blended with blockchain finally be able to recover the lost reputation of Zuckerberg relating to privacy? The sudden inclination towards blockchain might be suspicious to some, but particularly talking about data acquisition and how it changes privacy for Facebook, this would undoubtedly be a big change, and would portray a pro-privacy image of Zuckerberg.