When Facebook’s share price collapsed in late July, investors hoped it would bounce back quickly.
It didn’t, and the reasons are fundamental.
Facebook is losing users by millions. Its entire business model is being questioned. And it’s under mounting pressure — both internally and from the U.S. Congress — to impose a broad new censorship regime.
This is all in addition to Facebook’s latest breach of trust, a data breach it announced today that affected some 50 million user accounts. The company said it has fixed the issue, which allowed hackers to take over user accounts, and that it had contacted the FBI on Tuesday when it discovered the attack.
It’s no wonder why investors are dumping Facebook shares and users are deleting their accounts. Some “experts” seem to think the issue is “moral leadership.” Perhaps. But …
Moral Leadership is Usually Incompatible
With Centrally Controlled Organizations
The idea behind moral leadership is that decision-makers at centrally controlled organizations like Facebook will somehow rise to the occasion and do the right thing for their customers.
Indeed, that’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to promise when he apologizes for recurring scandals. He says he will remain ever more vigilant. He vows to take quicker action against posts that Facebook deems “illegitimate.”
“Yes!” respond the diminishing crowd of loyal users. “We should all be so lucky! Facebook will protect us.”
But, what, in essence, does this so-called protection entail?
The answer is censorship.
Broad, oft-arbitrary, computer-driven censorship — all in the hands of central decision-makers.
They and only they will decide whose opinion is “controversial” or “dissident.”
They and only they are the self-anointed “lords” of social media.
They alone have bestowed upon themselves the right to silence, marginalize and exclude anyone from the forum of public debate.
The crux of the problem? A convergence of two techno-trends that are coming to a head right here and now:
Trend #1. In today’s digitalized world, the overwhelming bulk of all conversations and debates happen on one social media platform or another. So, to be shut out from online discussions is the ultimate in censorship. You lose your voice. Period.
Trend #2. All of these social media platforms are run by private, for-profit, centrally controlled corporations that are empowered to make all decisions.
What about the Hundreds of
Millions of Social Media Users?
For the most part, they are not really the customers. They’re the product.
Meanwhile, in many countries, small elite groups at the top take on the responsibility of deciding what is “real” and what is “fake news.”
And it’s big. Social media giants like Facebook — along with search engine giants like Google — hold the keys to terabytes of private user information.
They are all too willing to use that wealth of information to shape public opinion and perception. They decide what we see. They decide what we don’t see. And this ultimately gives them the means to lead people to believe what they want people to believe.
What Else Do They Do with
All This Private Information?
They sell it. That’s their business. That’s what they do.
You could argue, in fact, that companies like Facebook and Google could potentially be used as sophisticated, high-powered spying machines.
Unsuspecting users reveal detailed, personal information. This data is then compiled with hidden, “proprietary” algorithms. And it’s sold to virtually any company willing to buy it.
Most of it is for commercial use, and most people grudgingly accept that. Companies use the data to more precisely target their ads to the most likely prospects for their products.
“OK, OK,” say most users, thinking they have no other choice.
|In a world where DLT is mainstream, data breaches like Facebook’s latest disaster, which affected 50 million accounts, are virtually impossible.
But private info can also be used for politics. And among some political data firms, the mission is often an unabashed nose-thumb at a country’s best interests.
The “research firm” buying the data could have ties to a rogue government. That government would acquire the data with the sole purpose of shaping public opinion and interfering with democratic processes. Or worse.
That is, indeed, a problem.
The solution, however, is not more censorship. Nor is it the naïve expectation that decision-makers will somehow find the “correct moral path.”
What, then, IS the solution? Before I answer that question, here are some basic no-no’s with their logical consequences …
• Let social media platforms slide down the slippery slope of censorship. And in some parts of the world, it won’t be long before they morph into propaganda machines for the State.
• Build handy tools that enable central governments to intrude into the private life of their citizens. And some of them will do just that.
• Store a wealth of private information about millions of users in one central location. And sooner or later, someone or some government will get their grubby hands on it, use it for nefarious ends and wreak havoc.
• Build all the protective barriers you want. Moats with alligators or swamps with dragons. It doesn’t matter. As long as the data itself is centralized and unencrypted, there WILL be leaks. The data is a pot of gold. Some “genius” will always find a way to get to it.
That’s Where Crypto Comes In
The fundamental issue — the core reason we’ve witnessed so many data breaches impacting so many millions of users — isn’t necessarily because companies are amoral or negligent.
It’s primarily because their business model is built on centralized databases!
In other words, databases controlled by a single, central authority: Maybe a corporate board. Maybe a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Perhaps a Cabinet secretary or central banker.
That centralization is the true root of the problem.
So, it follows that the only truly viable, long-term solution is decentralization. Decentralized databases!
The technical term is “Distributed Ledger Technology” — a secure, encrypted database shared across multiple users, companies or countries.
And THAT, my friend, is what cryptocurrencies or crypto-platforms are all about.
In a world where DLT is mainstream, data breaches are virtually impossible. Each user holds the key to all of his or her private information. No government or corporation gets access.
This information isn’t limited to “likes” on Facebook, shopping patterns on Amazon or images on Snapchat.
It also includes each individual’s medical records, ID, voting records or even DNA. If you store your personal information with Distributed Ledger Technology, no CEOs, CTOs or government officials can lay their hands on it.
Only you can access your data.
Plus, there’s more. With what’s called “Zero-knowledge Proofs,” you can achieve even greater privacy: You can prove certain facts without revealing what those facts are.
Let me give you a concrete, real-life example …
I’m driving down the highway. I get pulled over by a law enforcement agent. She wants to know if I’m allowed to drive that vehicle and whether I’m its legitimate owner.
With Zero-knowledge Proofs, I can prove all those things. I can prove I’m old enough to drive, that I have a valid driver’s license and that I’m the sole owner of the vehicle.
But unlike today’s IDs, I can do all of that without revealing my age, my name or even the registration data of the vehicle itself.
Intriguing? Well, we can take this still further …
I can participate in an election without anyone anywhere knowing what or whom I voted on. The election results are known in real time. We can be certain that all votes are accounted for. No fraud, no tampering.
And again, information is stored on the distributed ledger. It can be accessed at any time, but only by those who are legitimate participants.
With Distributed Ledger Technology, social media platforms no longer need to rely on advertising models that encourage them to spy on their users.
Private information is not stored in a central location. So it cannot be stolen. It cannot be used by adversarial governments to mount cyberattacks or interfere in election processes.
To pursue any of those missions, they would need to hack into each and every computer of every individual user, a virtually impossible feat.
We know because we have solid, real-world evidence that it’s impossible to hack into the Bitcoin network, which uses the same technology. It will be equally impossible to hack into the private records of tens of millions of users.
A pipe dream? No. These technologies are being built today!
That’s the crypto revolution.
And it has barely begun.