Blockchain Already Has a Killer App: Privacy

Claire Lovell
Sep 7, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo: Icons 8 on Unsplash

Although blockchain was last year’s buzzword, since then, many have rightfully criticized the hype. Many projects focused on blockchain or cryptocurrencies are thinly veiled cash grabs that don’t even have products.

Take this app I looked at last March, which never had their promised ICO or released an app, but is still selling tokens which offer in-app benefits.


A takedown of Fenix.cash from March

Everyone is trying to find something and #putablockchainonit. There are a lot of scams, but there are also a lot of smart people working on these problems. Ripple and Stellar are trying to make cross-border money movements easier and cheaper. Consensys Viant is developing a supply chain asset management tool. Civic is making your identity verifiable across the internet. The landscape is so vast, people are trying to see what works. Most big banks and credit card companies are exploring blockchain applications for things like account holder rewards and more. IBM has basically become a incubator for blockchain apps.

With all this innovation and big ideas, the public is waiting for blockchain to live up to the potential we’ve all been told it has. Even the most conservative among us are starting to realize blockchain applications are the future. But with all this hype, we’ve forgotten about what blockchain technology was actually invented for: digital asset verification of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin was not intended to be the speculation vehicle it is today, but rather, digital cash. Just like real cash, you don’t have to trust the other person to know you’re getting real, legal tender — the blockchain handles that for you. The entire point of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is that they facilitate trustless transaction, by publishing anonymous, verifiable details of every single transaction. The blockchain is like a big spreadsheet the entire internet can access, but not edit. But because everything on the blockchain is public, it doesn’t work for sensitive data. So many of these new blockchain application ideas don’t make any sense, because the data is meant to be private. The actual purpose and utility of the blockchain is to facilitate cash-like transactions — digitally, without having to trust a banker, the seller, or the buyer.

Americans are purchasing more than ever — they’re just doing it on the internet now. That shift has brought a rash of creepy new behavior from the companies we interact with. Mastercard now ties your internet browsing to your real life purchases — and they’re not the only company participating. We’ve gotten so used to it, we just expect anything we considered purchasing to follow us around the internet for the next few days. What if there was a way to purchase things on the internet that wasn’t linked to your browsing history, your Instagram likes, and who you follow on Facebook? What if you could buy things that didn’t go on your permanent internet record?

For a long time, I thought it wasn’t a big deal to have sock ads plastered over my internet after searching for some, because I wasn’t doing anything illegal or wrong. But after the disclosures post 2016 election, I am feeling very perturbed by the amount of data that is constantly collected on me and my family. It doesn’t seem right that things I purchase for my daughter are probably contributing to a digital ad profile of her that could follow her the rest of her life. The thing is, I just don’t trust these companies anymore, and what they might be doing with my data.

With cryptocurrencies, I don’t have to. I can purchase something, verify the transaction via the blockchain, and go on with my life. Socks don’t have to haunt me forever. Isn’t that a world you’d like to live in?

Claire Lovell

Written by

Sr. Product Manager at BRD. Avid reader. LGBT activist. Feminist. Mom. clairelovell.com

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