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Do You Really Think You Own Your Identity? Crumbling Walls and the Argument for Self-sovereignty

Beginning in 2014, Cambridge Analytica harvested data from profiles of roughly 50 million Facebook users, resulting in one of the largest data leaks in modern history. A breach of this magnitude, compromising the identities and preferences of millions, shines a light on one of the gargantuan issues of our time: our interconnectedness.

Interconnectedness as an idea is not detrimental to us. Indeed, it’s through interconnectedness that our species learned to cooperate and build the most advanced societies in the known universe. However, interconnectedness has brought with it dependencies, such as a core dependence on central authorities which, if left unchecked, can cripple the liberties of the individual and damage civilization to the point of self destruction.

Despite the clear question of morality in what happened between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, it’s not the legality which is of utmost concern. It’s the how, not the why which holds the key to preventing such issues in the future.

The term breach means the breaking or opening of a wall and that is exactly what a central authority, such as Facebook, is liable to have. Much like a castle surrounded by walls, central agencies, even when built with the strongest walls are still central, and therefore isolated.

It’s no longer a question of whether the company acts correctly with information, even when operating with the best intentions in mind, they are by their very nature vulnerable and therefore the data they protect are vulnerable.

As individuals living within a society, we have been conditioned into certain behaviors. As the world has grown in complexity, we have been forced to figuratively and literally spread ourselves out to live within it. It’s normal now to create new passwords and accounts on platforms and with different companies daily. We do it without thinking. We do it without realizing what we’re doing.

This means the majority of us are not identifying only with our names and which village we’re from, but are constantly stretching out our identities into new areas brought on through interconnectedness.

These multitudes of information about who we are are stored by central agencies like Facebook. They are out of our reach, held captive in castles with crumbling walls.

The truth is you don’t own your identity, at least not fully. You can make whatever philosophical argument you want about identity being something no one can own (and I might agree with you) but, as far as the world of things is concerned, you are a scattered assortment of information, owned by central authorities like banks, governments, private companies, etc.

Overcoming this situation will require a shift in paradigm. It will require a redefinition of identity. Previously such an attempt to redefine something as vast as identity would have been impossible. The infrastructure to support changing the age old system of centralized authorities was not ready for such a shift. Luckily, technology has now evolved to a point where the transition is not only thinkable, but realizable.

An age of self-sovereignty through decentralization is upon us. Yet even though such exciting tech is rushing forward with arms held open wide, it is up to us to decide whether to embrace it or push it away. In the end it is still decisions we, the individuals, make as to whether to allow old issues to persist, or to seek the new place of understanding. Of course with new opportunities come new problems, but what is the alternative?

So let’s decide through decisions. Let’s decide through informing ourselves about what is out there and making the choice to change. Find out what Metadium is doing to help you make sure the pieces of you, your most valuable asset in this digital age, remain yours.

— Jake Hostetler from Team Metadium

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