What’s your favorite color? What’s the name of the street where your parents lived? What’s the pin number for your ATM card? And so the Facebook-based quiz questions came, in various guises, and many millions answered gleefully plonked away on the keyboard as they hurried to answer them. Today it is a very different type of Facebook question.
Why does one online platform have so much control over the personal data of billions of people?
Facebook, writes Emily Parker on CNN, was part of a new media order that included Uber, Netflix and Airbnb and the revolution they brought disrupted the existing way things were done. Today, however, that has changed. These once rebellious upstarts have morphed into extremely powerful monoliths that know too much about us and as the data manipulation stench – about Facebook, Trump, Brexit, Russia, Cambridge Analytica and goodness knows who else – continues to rise, then so, argues Parker, does the increased interest in blockchain.
It’s not exactly an original argument but it is certainly a compelling one. Blockchain, goes the theory, because it is decentralized, will allow us to control and share our data instead of giving it over to a potentially duplicitous and avaricious middleman, be that the house seller, the bank or indeed Facebook?
Parker cites a new book, “The Truth Machine,” by Michael Casey and Paul Vigna that describe how companies like Uber, Airbnb and Facebook have become examples of entrenched monopoly power. Blockchain technologies, argue Casey and Vigna “aim to do away with these intermediaries altogether, letting people forge their own trust to build social networks and business arrangements on their own terms.”
This could all be really really great. Unless the new blockchain-equivalent of Google or Facebook starts to try to take control. But Blockchain is decentralized right so that just couldn’t happen? Could it?