Some of the world’s think tanks and ruling elite gathered last week for the 50th edition of World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. Many arrived on the scene to voice their concern about predetermined but equally important issues like trade tensions, world economy’s increased risk of stagnation and cyber attacks to name a few, but they overlooked the elephant in the room in the form of data privacy.
WEF recently announced that it created a blockchain based public traceability platform capable of visualizing blockchain-based supply chain data from multiple companies and sources. But there is one solid thing that came up by utilizing the blockchain technology in securing data that I will discuss here later on but first we should know why there is a dire need to ensure any platform’s user data privacy.
Decentralized blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies gave the world an alternative to every centrally controlled structure, whether its running governments or money. Keeping in mind that the current world and industry leaders are baby boomers, who mostly carry 20th century principles and fond of running centralized organizational structures whether in the form of money or power.
Even though it would be a tough nut to crack and convince them to the ills of centralized governments or money structure but to give them a test case, the grave concern of data privacy is what haunts them the most. Whether its Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails that cost her the 2016 general election, Cambridge Analytica, Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, this year’s data leak of German politicians and public figures or the very latest involving Saudi prince, Muhammad Bin Slaman in the phone hacking scandal of the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos.
Like many mainstream political and influential personalities, the current U.S. democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, at numerous times talked about the need to break up big tech. Silicon valley’s behemoths in the form of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have the power to disrupt a country’s entire economy and corporate systems single handedly. She thinks that these juggernauts can greatly decide the course of global wealth and must be confined in or ‘broken up’.
With a market cap of $1.3 trillion, Apple alone is bigger than the GDPs of some of the world’s powerful countries like Switzerland, Netherlands and even Mexico. World Bank compiled GDP data for 263 countries with similar characteristics. Of these, 216, or 82.1%, generate less than $1.3 trillion in annual GDP.
The amount of information Google holds has the potential to shift any country’s power balance in anyone’s favor. Not long ago, its CEO Sundar Pichai had a congress hearing when Republican members criticized the tech giant for burying conservative websites in search results and amplifying criticism of conservative policies, accusations that Google has repeatedly denied.
What Are the Possible Solutions Then?
Well there are two possible solution to settle the data privacy issue once and for all. The first one is to politically restrict these humongous companies through strict regulations. This seems understandable to anyone not greatly involved in tech but it can take a lot of time and by a ‘lot of time’, we are talking in years. But why? It is because these tech giants will do anything in their power to delay any form of legislation that could make them less powerful in any way. They all have become so powerful by having so much data of most probably every single legislator or lawmaker, combined with so much of lobbying power that it will probably take years to execute this solution.
The second solution is a much technological one and that is if they all switch to decentralized structure. This seems more feasible due to the fact that it involve the very user of the platform to own their own data using blockchain technology or advanced forms of encryption enable verification without revealing identities.
WEF’s Proposed Solution – ‘Blockchain Bill of Rights’
World Economic Forum (WEF) presented ‘Blockchain Bill of Rights: Design Principles for a Decentralized Future,’ at this year’s international organization’s annual meeting. The bill got inputs from some of the leaders of the blocking arena including Deloitte, CoinShares UK, The Ethereum Foundation, Accenture, ING Group, Bitfury, and ZCash as well as notable establishments such as the United Nations World Food Program, Blockchain Research Institute, MIT and the Imperial College London.
The goal of the document is to find different aspects on how to protect users by keeping their data privacy and ensuring their utmost digital privacy by utilizing blockchain. Over the course of a year, the bill will take inputs from other leaders of the digital industry by holding talks, conferences and interviews.
The bill is based to protect users based on the following pillars of blockchain
- The right of ownership over their data.
- The right to transparency and accessibility of information about the platform that consumers use.
- The right to understand available resources in case of deception or fraud.
- The right to privacy and security in terms of protection of their data.
Blockchain In 2020’s
It would be fair to say that this year blockchain rose from a mere buzzword in Davos to providing business models. The most astonishing thing about the technology is its application across industries whether it is banking, agriculture, energy, automotive, retail. Even governments are exploring blockchain’s use cases in the form of central bank digital currencies to fight money laundering.
The Chinese bank said that it has been working on the expected two-tiered system that would offer “controllable” anonymity and the functionality to replace paper cash and is expected to launch a digital currency sometime this year. The technology behind bitcoin has given its fair share of use cases to the world that the ruling elite is now adopting but they might be borrowing too much time.