Why do people protest against nuclear power? It’s clean, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t smell. Perhaps it is because of the risk attached to this source of electricity. In case of an accident the benefits are eliminated by the disastrous power of nuclear contamination, although its likelihood is minimal. How does this link to decentralization and technology? Today’s giant technology firms offer amazing products and services, some without even charging their users. But, surprisingly, people don’t react as they do to the risks of nuclear power, although there are massive risks attached to technological products and services.

Photo by Max Felner on Unsplash
“Surveys show that privacy is a primary concern for citizens in the digital age. On the other hand, individuals reveal personal information for relatively small rewards, often just for drawing the attention of peers in an online social network.”, Kokolakis, S. (2017). Privacy attitudes and privacy behaviour: A review of current research on the privacy paradox phenomenon.

Information monopolies

Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other tech companies have billions of users. In light of recent events some users are already questioning the way these companies collect and process users’ data. One can call these companies information monopolies with unprecedented risk. Here is why:

Certain entities know everything about you. These entities store all the pictures of your kids, relatives, and friends, they also have access to your location 24/7 and stores all your messages. Unfortunately, these companies cannot or do not always properly store and manage your data. Just think of Cambridge Analytica, the company that successfully exploited a feature in Facebook that allowed it to gather enormous amounts of data later used inappropriately in the U.S. presidential campaign. More importantly, the companies have an incentive to collect your data, since they make money by either selling it directly or by using it indirectly. We question that such a model of “collect everything you can” is fair to users and sustainable in the long term.

There is one more aspect about Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Apple: all these companies are based in the U.S. We are not trying to imply anything derogatory, but as the world seeks diversification, why would anyone store almost all their personal data with companies in one single country?

Any alternatives?

As obvious as it might sound, the only solution for central information hubs is a decentralized approach that leads to a mitigation of concentrated power. The main question we face is how to decentralize? The only approach allowing us to achieve decentralization is to reduce the power of single entities, i.e., reduce the percentage of one’s private data available to Facebook’s (or any other company’s) servers.

One prominent solution is distributed ledger technology (DLT). But, before we discuss it in more detail, has the history of humankind already seen actions that have resulted in the dilution of the power of a single entity?

One historic example is democracy, invented by the ancient Greeks. The system granted each individual one vote (though, slaves were not granted that benefit), making every single voting person an equal member of society. A relatively recent invention — antitrust laws — makes markets more competitive, a state highly desirable for general consumers. The list can be continued but unfortunately not too far, since there have been few initiatives directed at the prevention of concentration of power.

Humanity has done so much to spread out power in the past, from absolute monarchies to democracies, from Rockefeller’s empire to fighting monopolies, from governments deciding on monetary activities to independent central banks/federal reserve systems. But, when it comes to the digital world we still live in the past.

Decentralization as a solution

Only recently, a technology tailored to reducing concentration of power and data has started to gain momentum — DLT. Blockchain, one DLT application, simply explained is a chain of all the actions that have happened in the past. This chain is supported and stored by numerous market participants, making sure no single entity can make changes that harm others. Such a model allows us to avoid the concentration of power and leads to digital democracy.

DLT is currently at an early stage of development, and new implementations and features become available on a continuing basis, making the solution more tailored to everyday use. For example, one of the most promising tools — zero-knowledge proof — allows parties to prove they know some information without revealing it. The concept of zero-knowledge proof was discovered decades before the publication of Satoshi’s white paper . Such solutions allow actions recorded on Blockchain to be decentralized and anonymous at the same time, meaning that by using Blockchain and zero-knowledge proof with decentralized applications (Dapps) one can get the same usability and privacy as from centralized services, i.e., Facebook, but not give data to only one single entity.

The road ahead

At the moment the whole ecosystem is in an actively developing stage, and the solutions offered cannot yet match the offerings of the companies mentioned above. Nevertheless, the amount of human capital and enthusiasm involved in this innovative industry is enormous, and if the trend continues, we will definitely see people getting back power over their own privacy — a core anchor of human society. That is why we at Decentriq see our research, investments and applications in Blockchain infrastructure as a sustainable solution aimed at increasing the quality of life of billions of people.

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If you would like to discuss these ideas or ask any questions, we would love to talk with you! Just reach us via email at info@decentriq.ch.

Because no central entity lasts forever, we develop, apply, and invest in decentralized technologies. We don’t want history to repeat itself, nor to let our future be determined solely by central powers. From anonymity preservation to zero knowledge, we shape answers that last.

Visit our website at https://www.decentriq.ch/.