Identity and Blockchain: The Future of Social Commons
Most of you might be familiar with the concept of P2P (peer-to-peer) but have you heard about social commons?
The commons can be understood as a shared resource, held or governed by its user community based on that community’s norms. It is said that “there is no commons without commoning”, meaning that the resources by themselves are not commons, they need to be “activated” by the community’s actions. These days, commons are not limited to water, air, and land, we also have internet-based platforms considered social commons.
Let’s use Wikipedia as an example. The encyclopedic entries are the resource and the authors and editors are the community that rules based on protocols (wikipedia’s editing guidelines). We can compare Wikipedia with Facebook, AirBnB, Bitcoin, or any other project with an open source. They all use P2P dynamics but with their own protocols.
In Wikipedia, editing rules are placed to regulate the platform’s use and ensure the information shared is valid but, in reality, these rules or protocols fail to ensure the validity of the information uploaded and distributed. Why? Because “P2P systems are generally open to all contributors and contributions, and permissionless, meaning that a contributor doesn’t need permission from someone else to contribute.”
So, what motivates a user to input wrong information in Wikipedia? This can be explained with “The tragedy of the commons” a term developed in 1968 by the ecologist Garret Hardin. This theory describes a scenario in a shared resource system where some individuals act in their own benefit, contrary to the common good of all users, causing a damage to that resource due to the collective action.
“Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.” — Garret Hardin
The problem explained in the Tragedy of the Commons is not the only one faced by social commons in our era. All P2P platforms rely heavily on our data and, in our digital world, this equals identity. As a result, it’s extremely important to protect and control our digital identities.
“We leave digital footprints everywhere we go. Advancements in voice technology and the corresponding proliferation of in-home devices mean data collection is no longer restricted to our online lives. All of our steps can be pieced together to create an accurate picture of what we do, what we like, who we talk to, what we spend money on, and as a result, who we are.”- Justine Humenansky
We generate data every day but we don’t understand the extent to which our data is being collected, with whom it’s being shared and, maybe more importantly, how it is being used. In an attempt to protect our data, governments have begun to implement data privacy regulations like Europe’s GDPR. Unfortunately these regulations will most likely be ineffective because our ability to consent to data collection is limited.
Blockchain can prevent incidental access to our data with models that allow minimal disclosure of sensitive information. It can also provide mechanisms to monetize data ownership, giving the tools to achieve a fair distribution of the value created within a network, based on the individual actions and commitment.
Non-relevant but sensitive information is constantly disclosed during our online transactions. For example, if you want to use AirBnB in your next vacation the platform will ask you certain information to prove your identity but in reality AirBnB doesn’t need to know your address, age or other personal information. They just need to confirm that you are, well, you.
With Metadium, you would only have to go through the identity verification process once and we will verify your identity to AirBnB or other platforms that are supported by the Metadium protocol without revealing any sensitive and unnecessary information.
Beyond protecting your digital footprint and provide reputation, Metadium gives you ownership over your generated data. You decide if, where, and how much of it you provide. In a shared economy, this means that Metadium will create a system based on claims and achievements for the community to incentivize individuals to behave in benefit of the whole community and overcome the tragedy of the commons. Therefore; with Meta ID, individuals will make an effort to earn authority to participate in the commons and maintain it.
Blockchain technology is still in its infancy and we will need some time before users achieve full data ownership. Nevertheless, Metadium is working to bring this stage closer. The AirBnB case is just a simple example of the benefits that Meta ID can bring to you. The applications are endless, and we will continue to cover more use cases from different industries in this series.