Unleashing the Potential of Cryptodata
Introducing Blockchain 3.0 and Cryptodata
A Vision for a Responsible Data Economy
At the Oasis Foundation, we have been developing a vision for a responsible data society. Data is becoming one of society’s most valuable resources, and yet our current approaches fail to do justice to its intrinsic value. Our computational systems today have become siloed and mis-incentivized — failing to respect the basic rights of human beings. As a result, society to date has been unable to fully realize the value of the world’s flows of data.
In ten years, this scenario could be vastly different. By 2030, most chipsets will have the privacy technology needed to keep data fully confidential. Most applications will be using this technology to prevent data leaks and provide stronger privacy guarantees to their users.
In that vision for 2030, entities — we call them Data Stewards — will be needed, acting under fiduciary principles of care and loyalty to help protect, enhance, and promote the interests of end users and their data. Data Trusts, which pool similar user data, can be established , allowing Data Stewards to more easily manage many users’ data sets, and negotiate for fair, responsible usage. With these, and as-yet unexplored opportunities, a new ecosystem of data access owners, partners, and patrons will be primed to unlock the full potential value of the world’s digital wealth — and found what we hope will be a responsible data economy.
To get there, however, we need to put ourselves on the right path. That starts with setting and adopting an ethos for proper data stewardship, which we introduced in our recent blog. Beyond that, we need in place the right systems, technologies, and policies to properly support this new data society. Not just secure enclaves — but a robust platform that reshapes properties of the Web to meet the needs of a responsible data society.
Shifting the Power Back to Users
The decentralized nature of the Internet, in particular its end-to-end (e2e) principle, promised originally to put end users in charge of their online activities. As it turns out, first the client-server arrangement of Web 1.0, and then the multisided platforms ecosystems of Web 2.0, ended up reducing the end users’ ability to control their digital identities. Over time, any potential ability for ordinary people to control access to data, engage in mutual value exchange with peers and partners, and otherwise assert their digital rights, have been siphoned off, for third parties to enjoy.
Blockchain technology holds enormous promise to shift the power balance back to individuals. Under both Blockchain 1.0 & 2.0 models, crypto tokens were a key driver — first as a form of fungible, commoditized currency (1.0), and then as a way to capture the value of both fungible and non-fungible assets (2.0).
The arrival of what we introduce here as Blockchain 3.0 presents a pivotal evolutionary step in both the World Wide Web, and blockchain technology itself. With Blockchain 3.0, the public and easily-shareable nature of tokenized data, combined with secure computing environments, produces a new form of cryptodata. In turn, Blockchain 3.0 promises to help fuel a responsible data society, and address many of the issues of control, access, and value exchange that plague data on the web today.
Once data is encapsulated in supportive computational systems as cryptodata, end users can allow selective and consent-based computation on their information. With secure computing environments, like the ones found in the Oasis Network, end users don’t have to accept the current uneven trade-off between value extraction and data transfer. Instead, they can maintain access to, and the confidentiality of, their data, even when the right to use is granted to a third party.
Creating Programmatic Data Rights
In particular, what we call “programmatic data use” can dramatically realign the incentives among users. With programmatic use, smart contracts on a Blockchain 3.0 network can enforce specific policies, while the blockchain records the transaction. Keeping the data private ensures that the user data cannot be reused or repurposed in any way without permission. As a result, the user remains in control of their data, opening up countless new value creation paths that simply have not been possible before.
Programmatically attaching money to the flow of data creates the possibility to establish a direct and repeated relationship between the data producer/owner and the data consumer/buyer. Users and entities on all sides can explore novel ways of cooperating and collaborating with each other.
Cryptodata in Action
As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the globe, public health officials are turning to data for solutions. There is a need to track the spread of the virus, better understand the impact of policies, and prevent further outbreak. Contact tracing has emerged as a viable solution. By using location, proximity, and health data, officials can track sick patients and notify individuals if they may have been exposed to an illness, allowing them to better understand impact of policies, Control the spread of the disease, help ensure policy adherence (Stay-at-home, self-quarantine post exposure etc.). While contact tracing has been successful for some countries, privacy and security has remained an ongoing concern. Handing over health and location data without oversight or control leaves users questioning if their information is copied, misused, or leaked.
A contact tracing system that leverages cryptodata would provide the guarantees needed for individuals to feel confident that their data was protected and not abused. Programmatic usage policies could be set ensuring that only specific queries could be run by specific officials, and secure computing environments would help ensure that data couldn’t be copied and used for ulterior purposes. Pools of cryptodata with similar policies could then be made, allowing officials to easily access the data they needed to combat the pandemic.
A Critical Step Forward
Blockchain 3.0, and protocols like the Oasis Network, can unleash entirely new ways of conceiving, and using, data — now, as cryptodata. Tapping more fully into the social value of data as a ubiquitous, yet excludable economic good has the potential to unlock the full value of data and help create a responsible data economy that today remains largely unrealized. All kinds of users can have a secure and authenticated way to protect their valuable data.
Where today individuals seek to limit access to data by untrusted third parties, with cryptodata they will be able to share access to even sensitive data, without undue concern. Similarly, while some companies today hoard the data they collect in narrow silos as a competitive advantage, many more will be able to flourish in a new responsible data economy.
The capability to control third party access to one’s data is the first of many steps towards manifesting our vision for a responsible data society. Once the concept of programmatic data access rights is broadly established, and the necessary computational systems are in place, users can begin to engage in meaningful value creation and exchange — unlocking the potential of society’s digital future.