Could 2023 be the year of data control?

Could 2023 be the year of data control?

The Blockchain Revolution: Empowering Self-Sovereignty and Data Control

Introduction

In the digital age, where personal data has become a valuable commodity, our relationship with big tech and big media has been parasitic. Users unknowingly trade their autonomy for convenience, only to find out later that their data has been shared without explicit consent1. Countless websites and social platforms have faced fines for collecting and selling personal data to third parties, leading to a rising demand for self-sovereignty in the digital realm2. But what is self-sovereignty and why should we care? In this article, we delve into the concept of self-sovereignty and explore how blockchain technology can empower individuals to regain control over their data and online identities.

What is Self-Sovereignty?

Self-sovereignty is the concept of owning and controlling one’s online identity and having the ability to arbitrate and authorize access to personal data without relying on a central authority3. It represents the shift from the Web2 era, where users had limited control over their data, to the emerging Web3 era, where decentralized systems aim to grant individuals full control over their data, identities, and credentials4.

In the Web2 world, centralized systems pose risks of data breaches, unauthorized access, and loss of users’ data. Consider a video game that requires constant internet connection and updates from a server owned by the game developer. If the developer goes out of business or the server becomes inaccessible, the game would no longer be playable5. In contrast, a standalone, non-connected video game cartridge can still be played on the console, irrespective of the existence of the game company6. This example highlights the importance of self-sovereignty in ensuring that larger systems do not fail in the absence of a central authority.

Blockchain technology, with its decentralized and immutable nature, provides the foundation for self-sovereignty. For example, Ethereum addresses can be self-sovereign as they can be generated without relying on a higher authority, and cryptographic signatures can be verified without up-level approval7. By leveraging blockchain and cryptographic technologies, self-sovereignty becomes a potential solution to the issues surrounding data control and privacy.

Why Should We Care About Sovereignty?

Sovereignty is a fundamental concept in modern society, both in physical and digital realms. Constitutional Amendments in democratic countries affirm individual sovereignty in various aspects of life, including freedom of speech, defense, and protection of citizens’ rights8. While sovereignty in the offline world is widely acknowledged, its equivalent in the online world is yet to be fully realized.

Companies and industries profit from our data, and without legal intervention, their willingness to bestow sovereignty to users is low9. To protect individual sovereignty in the digital realm, government support and wider adoption of Web3 infrastructure are crucial10. The healthcare industry, for instance, has taken steps to grant patient sovereignty at the state level, with bills like the My Health My Data Act in Washington aiming to safeguard residents’ health data and prevent its sale to third parties11. Exploring and supporting Web3 technologies can offer individuals peace of mind regarding the safety and security of their data.

Making Room for Self-Sovereignty

Fully embracing self-sovereignty requires individuals to entrust sovereignty over their own data. With the rapid advancement of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), genetic modification, and robotics, establishing self-sovereign lines becomes increasingly critical12. However, centralized solutions like Web2 systems are fundamentally defined by authoritative control, where a single entity owns and controls the data stored, leaving users with limited control13.

The adoption of Web3 and blockchain technology faces several challenges, including educating users and perfecting user experience (UX) design14. Users have been subjected to the pitfalls of the internet for too long, where they are reduced to pawns in the game of big tech. The transition to self-sovereign data requires not only technological advancements but also the construction of real-world infrastructure and the adoption of new coding paradigms15. It is essential to streamline UX to facilitate wider adoption and make decentralized networks more approachable.

Despite common discourse associating Web3 with blockchain and cryptocurrency, the essence lies in sovereignty itself. Similar to freedom, sovereignty is not a static state but a constant pursuit. Only by embracing blockchain technology and striving for self-sovereignty can individuals regain control over their own data and identities in this digital age16.

Conclusion

The blockchain industry offers a revolutionary solution for the challenges and vulnerabilities associated with data control in the digital realm. Self-sovereignty, enabled by blockchain and cryptographic technologies, gives individuals the power to control their online identities and personal data without relying on centralized authorities. As society becomes increasingly reliant on technology, the need for self-sovereignty becomes imperative to protect privacy, security, and individual rights. By embracing Web3 infrastructure and promoting wider adoption of blockchain technology, we can pave the way for a future where individuals have the autonomy and control over their digital lives that they deserve.

Arie Trouw is the co-founder of XYO and founder of XY Labs.

This article was published through Cointelegraph Innovation Circle, a vetted organization of senior executives and experts in the blockchain technology industry who are building the future through the power of connections, collaboration, and thought leadership. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Cointelegraph.

Learn more about Cointelegraph Innovation Circle and see if you qualify to join

References


  1. “What is happening to my data?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-happening-to-my-data.↩︎

  2. “What is happening to my data?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-happening-to-my-data.↩︎

  3. “What is self-sovereignty?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  4. “What is self-sovereignty?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  5. “What is self-sovereignty?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  6. “What is self-sovereignty?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  7. “What is self-sovereignty?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-is-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  8. “Why should we care about sovereignty?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/why-should-we-care-about-sovereignty.↩︎

  9. “What can we do?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-can-we-do.↩︎

  10. “What can we do?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-can-we-do.↩︎

  11. “What can we do?” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/what-can-we-do.↩︎

  12. “Making room for self-sovereignty.” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/making-room-for-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  13. “Making room for self-sovereignty.” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/making-room-for-self-sovereignty.↩︎

  14. “The Blockchain Revolution: Empowering self-sovereignty and data control.” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-blockchain-revolution-empowering-self-sovereignty-and-data-control.↩︎

  15. “The Blockchain Revolution: Empowering self-sovereignty and data control.” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-blockchain-revolution-empowering-self-sovereignty-and-data-control.↩︎

  16. Trouw, A. “The Blockchain Revolution: Empowering self-sovereignty and data control.” Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-blockchain-revolution-empowering-self-sovereignty-and-data-control.↩︎

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