Academic Articles

Decentralising Privacy: Using BlockChain to Protect Personal Data
Problem:
Third parties have too much control over massive amounts of user data, and there are too many breaches of personal user privacy and security because of how the data is handled. “The recent increase in reported incidents of surveillance and security breaches compromising users’ privacy call into question the current model“. A service like blockchain can completely take this out of the hands of a third party, and would allow users to control their own data rather than being forced to rely on and trust a third party company who might benefit greatly from misusing that data, or might record data they don’t require. An example of this would be Facebook (Hill, 2011), which seems to record and hold onto pretty much any kind of data that relates to a user, when this isn’t really necessary for them to successfully provide users with a social media account service.

Why is it important:
In the Big Data era, data is constantly being collected and analyse, leading to innovation and economic growth.” Personal data is valuable. It helps companies determine what consumers want or enjoy, and allows them to make decisions based around that knowledge. The problem now is that “there is a growing concern about user privacy… …Individuals have little or no control over the data that is stored about them or how it is used“. Just how much personal data is recorded usually isn’t up to the user, and often can’t be changed or controlled by them, and once their data has been stored the user has little control over what happens to or, or a right to have it remain private. One method to deal with this has been to anonymizing research but “recent research has demonstrated how anonymized datasets employing [k-anonymity] techniques can be de-anonymized
Blockchain is a possible solution to this, as it no longer requires the third party for data organization, leaving the user themselves in control of their own information and what gets given out. The system discussed in the paper claims that it focuses on “Data Ownership, Data Transparency and Auditability, and Fine-Grained Access Control“, all commonly faced privacy issues (Users often have no control/ownership of their own information, have no idea what data is being recorded, and agrees to data permissions on sign up which cannot be altered later). Section III Proposed Solution of the article goes over the system in more detail, discussing how exactly a blockchain system would allow users to determine what information the service providers/third parties have, based on set and changeable permissions, as well as how this doesn’t prevent user identity assurance.

Real-world applications:
There are many in relation to IT and online services, as pretty much any service which requires user data could gather and misuse data without permission of the user. It would overall make data storage more private, transparent and adjustable for users as well as enabling the same data-gathering rules to be put in place regardless of the third parties involved as it would no longer be determined by them.

Bitcoin-NG: A Scalable Blockchain Protocol
Problem:
While Bitcoin and Blockchain have been successful, the current protocols used by blockchain limits the scale of possible transactions it can be used for, which limit the throughput/latency. “Despite its potential, blockchain protocols face a significant scalability barrier. The maximum rate at which these systems can process transactions is capped by the choice of two parameters: block size and block interval.” With the current protocol, the block size can’t be increased without making blocks take longer, and the interval can’t be increased without restricting the block size.

Why is it important:
The block/interval limitations prevent blockchain from becoming more widely applicable – For example, bitcoin can do 7 transactions a second, while a system like PayPal can manage 193 a second (Rosic, 2017). This means bitcoin-built blockchain systems suffer from the same problem, limiting the scalability of blockchain transactions and limiting their applicable uses.
Bitcoin-NG (Next Generation) is supposed to be a solution for this problem, “a new blockchain protocol designed to scale“. This would overcome the downfall of the current system, instead limiting the transactions by the network and node capabilities rather than the program itself.

Real-world applications:
A scalable form of blockchain/bitcoin would allow for additional use throughout different. “Such scaling is key in allowing for blockchain technology to fulfill its promise of implementing trustless consensus for a variety of demanding applications including payments, digital asset transactions, and smart contracts — at global scale.” Blockchain has been established as a safe way to conduct transactions between parties without the need for a third party, and to perform transactions with a global digital currency.

References:
Hill, K (2011, September 27). Facebook Keeps A History Of Everyone Who Has Ever Poked You, Along With A Lot Of Other Data Forbes Magazine

Rosic, A (2017, November). Blockchain Scalability: When, Where, How? BlockGeeks

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