Over the past few years, we have seen one data breach after another coming out of China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Many in the media and in Silicon Valley would have you believe they are our greatest threats when it comes to cyber threats. Then there’s also that threat of big brother watching — yes, the U.S. government — but what happens when someone has access to their data as well? Could we as a country be more vulnerable? Probably not!
I believe that every American in our country is at risk as they trade in their privacy, as a price of admission to use cloud services and infrastructure providers. Many consumers are either unaware of the nature of the data being collected or they are simply apathetic as nearly unrestricted data collection has become the new normal.
There is no debate that data collection has exploded over the past ten years. Today, it is not just your computers and cellphones, but also your cars, watches, TV’s and homes are continuously gathering data on the way you live your life. Alexa and Echo have listened in on every conversation and private family moment that has been shared within your home since the moment they were connected.
Why? Because data is the currency of the 21st century and it has become necessary for a user to sacrifice their privacy to access even the most mundane of applications. Their data is being collected from the moment the user is forced to click “I accept the terms of agreement” if they wish to continue using. Should anyone have the pleasure of reading the Terms of Agreement section of any given application, you will find that they are dense, complicated, and filled with technologically advanced language that is indecipherable to anyone other than the person who wrote it.
For all the data that we allow to be gathered, for all the power we cede to these tech goliaths, how are the users rewarded for their business and for their trust? With increasingly frequent data breaches that compromise millions of people’s data security. Worse yet, if you attempt to delete data which has been stored by these companies, it is exceedingly difficult to do so as each cloud service provider has their own unique retention policies.
In short, the people of today are being crushed under the unfeeling corporate heel of data collection and there is little we can do to free ourselves.
Have you ever thought why we have allowed this to happen? It was never our intent, but like all social change, it happened gradually and the internet expanded through the provisioning of technology from central authorities — meaning that if you want an email, you provision an email service from Google. If you want storage, you provision a file storage service from Dropbox. With multiple service and infrastructure providers, our data is now spread across machines and devices located literally across the globe. The role of the central authority has expanded as our services have become more feature rich.
Consumers are lured into accepting the terms of agreement with the tantalizing promise of convenience and the chance to own the next new thing. But there is a hidden fee in all of this, and that is in the form of our data, and the companies collecting and controlling those massive amounts of data are now poised to monetize that data. So, the question becomes, what can we do to stop this seemingly endless collection of our data, and intrusion of our privacy?
One answer: blockchain.
Blockchain can replace central authorities like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Dropbox without needing to store data with a centrally controlled server. For example, say that five people agree on a specific transaction or activity. The agreement is documented by each and digitally signed to formalize the agreement among the parties.
It is then digitally locked to ensure that the agreement cannot be altered. This is called immutability. Through this distributed agreement, services previously provisioned by Google and the like can now be conducted without the need for a central authority or centralized server. This means that the data being collected every second remains in the control of the users. The data would never have to be stored by a third-party entity, thereby eliminating their position of absolute power over the user. Above all else, the user can now harness resources and solutions without having to give up their privacy. At the same time, blockchain limits the need for massive central data storage facilities that tempt the hackers and digital pirates to attack.
Blockchain does not automatically protect the data being shared, but there are companies that are working to bring data security to blockchain. This would require true end-to-end encryption of data ensuring that it is never in the clear. If, for example, you send a file from your phone to an office colleague’s desktop, the file would have to be shredded and encrypted from the point of origin, and then reassembled and decrypted only after it arrives at the point of destination.
The powerful combination of blockchain and data security could be a transformative combination where we would be able to create and share information without turning over our privacy, and protect our data from being read by people and systems that are intent on exploiting it for their own purposes.
Think about this: what company, financial institution, law firm, or hospital doesn’t use service providers like Google, Apple, or Dropbox, to name a few? Think of the vital information that’s vulnerable to the threats of cyber-terrorism. More importantly, what about our own government, and the White House?
We have global enemies working around the clock to breach our data systems, destroy our economy, and shut down our government, and yet we continue to allow the collection and central storage of our business, personal, and private data by technology giants, who benefit by the billions.
It is time for that to change.
As New York City’s 40th Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik was on the scene just minutes after the first hijacked airliner slammed into Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He worked tirelessly with Mayor Rudy Giuliani to oversee the NYPD’s response, rescue, recovery, and the investigative efforts of the most substantial terror attack in world history. He has spent ten of his thirty-five year career working in the Middle East, and has been recognized in more than 100 awards for meritorious and heroic service, including a presidential commendation for heroism by President Ronald Reagan, two Distinguished Service Awards from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and an appointment as Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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