The rise of distributed ledger technology, commonly known as blockchain, has been highly controversial since the beginning. Between its ties to Bitcoin and the news of links to child pornography discovered deep within some chains, some have been very quick
to judge both the integrity and usability of blockchain solutions beyond cryptocurrencies. But it’s important to remember that blockchain, like any other technological advancement, is just a tool. The blame is all on the user and how it is being misused.
Bitcoin’s short history has already been rather checkered, with its origins heavily tied to the drug trade and hacking. But more and more cryptocurrencies are being legitimately regarded by financial institutes and governments as ways to disrupt banking
and bring banking services to previously unbanked populations. The reason why lies primarily in the potential of blockchain technology and its strengths for transparent record keeping.
Now, let’s be honest for a minute. With everyone and their mother talking about blockchain right now it’s very easy to dismiss it as simply a buzzword or a hot topic technology that could be safely ignored for another five years. But blockchain is more than
a buzzword. Consider the origins of cloud computing, or the Internet itself. Early on, the potential of these technologies was easy to miss in the flurry of news and excitement surrounding them. Blockchain is no different, which is why it’s important to remain
impartial, and take any reports about the benefits, or downsides, of the tech with a grain of salt.
So the question we then need to ask is “what is the big deal with blockchain?” Primarily, the technology’s potential to change how we store, and share, identity data.
Decentralized identity management is one of the most important conversations happening regarding blockchain. Currently, we regularly relinquish control of our personal data to companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. Blockchain technology enables
a model where we not only retain control of our own data but only have to share that information on a need to know basis. We still own it. We control who can access it, and when. And we are able to revoke that access whenever we desire more privacy. This concept
is known as self-sovereign identity (SSID) and is being promoted by organizations like Hyperledger and WSO2, as well as Veridium’s
own CTO John Callahan.
SSID doesn’t just improve privacy though, it also improves security by minimizing threats and data leaks like those that happened at Equifax, Cambridge Analytica, and more. If we control where and how our data is used, and prevent it from being stored on
third-party databases, we are able to minimize exposure. When a company like Equifax is then targeted, all the hacker is able to see is verified claims about our identities made against the blockchain. Not the personally identifying data that these types of
organizations currently keep.
Yes, like any other technology, blockchain can be abused. But an unowned, distributed ledger is still just a place to store information. Any information. And ultimately these misuses are no different than the activity already happening across the Internet.
It’s all in how it’s used. And how we protect ourselves against it.
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