11 Mar, 2019E27.CO
Internet security continues to be a major area of concern for users all over the world. During the first half of 2018, digital security specialist Gemalto revealed that 945 data breaches had taken place. These breaches led to an overwhelming 4.5 billion data records being compromised worldwide.
While the number of breaches on an annual basis had gone down, the number of records compromised had gone up by 133 percent. No company or organisation can be considered safe from these data breaches. Major companies like Adidas were heavily hit by cyberattacks, with 2 million records being compromised. The global healthcare sector experienced security infiltrations of its own, putting the lives of patients at risk.
While these data breaches appear to be the most prevalent forms of online network security threats, there is an even more sinister type that took the world by storm.
Earlier in 2018 social media giant Facebook was involved in a scandal that saw its CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg summoned to testify before the U.S. Congress. It was discovered that the personal information of an estimated 87 million Facebook users were sold to a consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica. Controversy arose when it was found that this was the same consulting firm that President Trump hired during his presidential campaign.
The information was accessed through a viral quiz app that was run on Facebook. The quiz app appeared to be harmless, requesting the personal information of users the way any other third-party application would. But not only did the firm manage to access the users’ information, they also acquired information from the users’ Facebook friends through a loophole in Facebook’s Application Program Interface (API). Although Facebook’s policy dictates that users’ personal data should not be sold, the data collected by Cambridge Analytica was sold anyway.
Users have grown to have little to no trust in the privacy of their data, as the platforms they trust continue to show little regard for the privacy needs of the average user.
Google is one of the best companies in the world at collecting user data. Google also runs a well-known service called AdSense which allows website owners to generate revenue by letting Google place ads on their sites. From the user’s point of view, this means that his internet activity/movement can become traceable.
The Google Ads Preferences Manager service makes it possible for its users to check which customer interest categories they are put into based on their website visits, and they are also able to opt out of this categorisation. However, many users do not have knowledge of this function. Therefore, their internet footprint continues to be tracked, leaving them in an extremely vulnerable position. Opting out of ads is very complex, especially for inexperienced users.
Many users are unaware of the fact that these identifiers given to the search engine providers voluntarily can easily be correlated with their search queries conducted while they are logged into other accounts, such as email (their e.g. email account). While some advanced users are able to use apps such as Adblock software to remove ads and this tracking feature, many websites have become savvier. Users are now forced to disable their Ad blocking software before being able to access a site.
Blockchain technology can offer an ideal solution to the current problems with internet protection and data privacy. Blockchain technology serves as a sophisticated encrypted ledger that converts stored information into digital assets.
An example of a company working on a comprehensive solution to the user’s internet problem is Honeypod.
The device is a smart hardware unit that connects to your router to remove ads and tracking systems from all of your devices and to secure your online payments while also rewarding you to browse the web. The aim is to free users from the confines of being tracked and having their data used without their active consent.
To put the tracking problem to an end, the device will prevent any unwanted mechanisms or 3rd party systems from entering your device. It includes a continually growing “blacklist” of perpetrating sites, while it gives you the ability to manage access on your own. From a security perspective, users can keep track of all data requests and 3rd parties that attempt to access their devices. This allows them to have real-time insight into who is blocked, how many times they have tried to access their information, and on which device.
As a result of blocking these hampering tracking systems, ads, and services, users won’t be subjected to an internet lag. Think of a series of “road blocks” being removed; now smooth sailing can take place. To add to the benefits of utilising this tech, all users receive digital credits for participating n the platform. This goes in line with the true ideals of blockchain, where all parties involved are rewarded for their contributions in order to maintain incentivisation.
This technology ensures that everyone’s private data, and browsing history, will be totally owned by the user themselves. The data is protected by the technology, thus ensuring that no sensitive personal data will ever be leaked.
Instead of being seen as a commodity, all user information should be treated as an asset. This means that it needs to be protected and valued the way a real-life asset would be protected and valued. With blockchain, a Cambridge Analytica situation would be a thing of the past. Security concerns present on other major sites would also greatly benefit from the decentralisation presented by blockchain. Users would be able to take advantage of platforms and apps without worrying about the security of their confidential personal information.
Blockchain technology and decentralisation continue to prove to the world that people’s interests are of the highest priority. Merging this technology with mainstream social media sites will transform data exchange and privacy as we know it. Users will be able to confidently browse, communicate, and exchange information with their consent – thus empowering them and balancing the dynamics within the structure of the internet.
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