Misused access to user information and persistent breaches have shown how big tech companies fail to safeguard consumer data. Multi-party computation (MPC) technology and blockchain can help.
Existing infrastructures do not go far enough to ensure data sovereignty is protected. This has had serious implications on the economy, politics, and human rights issues in recent years.
To some extent, big tech lacks the capabilities to effectively protect consumer data due to its technological limitations.
More than that, though, it is also important to note that the fundamental business structures underlying big tech practices limit the extent to which consumer data can be protected.
The implementation of MPC technology in combination with blockchain can help to alleviate these concerns. This technology allows large pools of data to stay encrypted while permitting information to be extracted from those data pools.
As we advance, industry leaders must implement this technology to provide the utmost protection for consumer data.
Large data scandals reveal abuse
In 2016 Facebook was implicated in a scandal with British research firm Cambridge Analytica. It was found that the firm was given access to the private information of up to 87 million users. A figure that equates to over a quarter of the United States’ population.
This huge misstep was a tipping point for awareness across the globe. Average consumers became cognizant of the significant failures by tech companies to protect their private information.
Meanwhile, governments had to contemplate the serious implications of such breaches. Especially on national security, the economy, and the sovereignty of millions of people’s private information.
This breach now seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the company’s recent failures. In April this year, hackers posted the phone numbers, emails, and personal information of over 500 million global Facebook users. This left people open to massive security breaches and targeted scams.
A significant attack on Facebook’s infrastructure in 2018 further demonstrates this lack of ability to safeguard consumer data. As a further 50 million users’ data came under attack.
The irony was not lost on those who noted that the hackers were able to gain access through software introduced as part of Facebook’s attempts to integrate a tool designed to improve user privacy.
Here, the company clearly demonstrated how the technology it uses failed to protect against data and confidentiality breaches. However, it’s not only Facebook.
Google, Whatsapp, Instagram, and several other giants face significant charges of failure to abide by European GDPR. Meanwhile, leaders of these companies have come before the US congress accused of failure to safeguard consumer data several times in recent years.
The fight between tech and regulation
New laws in Europe and the United States will allow people to opt out of data sharing. So far, Google has committed to blocking third-party cookies. Meanwhile, other tech companies are promoting privacy options that will make targeted adverts less easy to employ.
While regulation aims to effectively police these big tech firms, companies need to engage in a process of self-evaluation. They must put in place safeguards to protect consumers. So far, however, they have failed to do so in any meaningful way.
The issue also lies in the fact that these companies have access to an unchecked myriad of unspecified information upon which they have a monopoly.
Regulators have accused Google of facilitating “internal data free for all” by adopting certain practices. These include taking consent for certain personal data uses and applying them to services that are completely unseen to the user.
Elsewhere, online marketplaces such as Amazon and Apple have the ability to control which products and advertising users see. This means they have a huge influence over consumer buying patterns within their own markets.
What’s more, companies that host new apps on their platforms have access to the data and technology behind these developments. This allows them to learn and grow from the innovation of smaller companies.
This shows how these companies are not only failing to safeguard consumer data but also has a vested interest in controlling it.
MPC and decentralization tools needed
To implement infrastructures that will safeguard consumer data, industry leaders must urgently seek alternatives to existing technologies.
So far, companies have explored the use of decentralized social media platforms to place more control of consumer data back into the hands of users.
Decentralized social networks operate on independently run servers rather than on a centralized business-owned server. Using these functions, an individual can set up their own social network and restrict the use of unencrypted private data, rather than a big tech company controlling the users’ data.
The implementation of MPC technology in combination with blockchain offers a further layer of protection for consumers.
MPC ensures data confidentiality through a network of computation nodes that computes directly on encrypted data with zero knowledge about the data. It allows for large decentralized pools of data to stay encrypted. Meanwhile, information is extracted from those decentralized data pools using encrypted computations.
Within the context of a social media platform, using MPC allows for a decentralized network wherein users can hold an encrypted profile without allowing for the exchange and ownership of their personal data.
Hereby, MPC addresses both the “common” security breaches in big tech and bringing the control of data back into the hands of the users using advanced encryption.
It is clear that the current model of big tech cannot and does not ensure data privacy. Current infrastructures do not have the capacity or desire to create ecosystems in which individuals can manage their own access and data-sharing parameters.
The implementation of MPC technology in combination with blockchain can help to alleviate these concerns by ensuring confidentiality and placing data sovereignty back into the hands of users.