Janine Terrano, CEO, Topia Technology
The internet, with its depth and breadth of services and information, is now part of nearly every decision we make. From what route to take home from work to what we prepare for dinner, there’s a service for it. With this age of “everything can be connected,” we also have the promise of personalized convenience based on our information being collected, analyzed, and sold by the great data aggregators. This is benignly referred to as “big data.” Packaged as convenience, it is compelling and attractive on the surface, but at its core it is invasive, and frankly, a little scary.
Nothing is Ever Free
Let’s talk about why some of the tools that we think are extremely convenient don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind. Recently, a colleague of mine was astonished to find Facebook had somehow tapped into an office discussion on the movie “Fight Club,” which took place in a conference room with only a few smart phones turned on, but no web surfing on the topic. Literally within minutes of the conversation, one of the participants was served an ad promoting the movie as she browsed Instagram. Ah well, what’s a little privacy in exchange for Facebook’s ability to personalize your user experience…after all, it’s free!
First of all, it is not “free,” and serving an ad is not convenient, it’s simply sophisticated targeting to sell you something. One could easily argue that big data enables companies to exploit a user’s activity and information AND it comes at the high cost of your privacy. In the underworld of gambling and loan sharks, this is called the “vig.” It’s the usury interest or fee paid to play.
In the age of technology, nearly every service you subscribe to, every application you download, every resource you utilize comes at a price, and the vig you pay is in the form of privacy and personal information.
We are all aware of the concern over data breaches. You know the stories. Equifax has 143 million records stolen, Yahoo has all 3 billion accounts compromised, Target, Pizza Hut, and the list goes on. Unsurprisingly, nearly every breach crowding the headlines was perpetrated on some single repository managed by a central authority. How convenient to have this valuable data organized in easily identifiable location, at least for the bad guys! Yet, while we are focused on data breaches, we remain complacent about our privacy and data being exploited day by day, minute by minute, just because we want to use the internet.
What’s the Alternative?
So how do we regain control and still enjoy the bountiful promises that technology can enhance our lives? How do we put technology back in the hands of humans and protect our privacy from the underbelly of the central authorities? That is the promise of blockchain and the ability to decentralize resources, applications and services. Blockchain technologies will massively disrupt the invasive nature of the vig, I mean big data, because we have the opportunity to operate without relying on a central authority to manage, provide, and control resources and services. Or at least take back a bit more control.
Imagine the freedom to store, share, access public and private information without your data or activity being exploited. Blockchain will usher in a new age of technology and for the central authorities the “vig” might be up.