Why Your Online Privacy and Security is Under Threat — Blockchain Is Here to Change That 0 526

Privacy has always been important. It’s just human nature to want to protect our secrets and most personal information. In the online world, our online privacy and security is especially important, because the information we share there is available globally. If our sensitive online data is compromised, it could fall into the hands of literally anyone.

For these reasons and more, 59% of internet users worry about their personal info being stolen. For most of us, it’s important to have control over which companies can access and use our data, and we like to imagine they’ll be responsible custodians of it.

It’s no surprise, then, that the recent scandals surrounding the misuse of customer data by big companies like Facebook have caused such a storm.

Rumors about dubious data protection practices have been around for years, but it’s only now that the full extent of Facebook’s negligence is coming to light.

Nobody is sure what will happen as a result, but it’s a safe bet that Facebook will continue to use our data pretty extensively. That’s because it’s a huge money-spinner for them.

Why is our data so valuable

When we use sites like Facebook and Google, we essentially surrender control of our data. All the information we share and post using the platforms belongs to them.

That includes information about what we tend to search for, our interests, how we spend our time, and much more.

It’s extremely valuable to these companies because they work closely with advertisers to help them target ads at the right people. It makes sense: advertisers are likely to have much more success when they aim their ads at people who are already somewhat interested in their products.

This makes data an incredibly powerful resource for these platforms. It helps make them billions in ad revenue and keeps them at the top of their respective games.

It can be considered an invasion of privacy, and an intrusion into users’ personal affairs, but at least the platforms are upfront about their activities in this area.

The Cambridge Analytica Scandal

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, however, revealed a whole new layer of shady behavior. It turns out that Facebook had allowed a third-party political consulting firm to access the data of millions of their users.

This data was then used in political campaigns to influence votes. That’s a problem because none of the users had directly consented to their personal data being used this way.

Since the scandal broke, Facebook and similar platforms have come under heavy scrutiny about their ethics when it comes to our data.

It’s pretty unlikely that these tech giants will cease to exist, or even take a significant hit. But their reputations have suffered. In a recent survey, 40% of people said they were ‘concerned’ about how Facebook used their personal data, and another 44% were ‘very concerned’.

It boils down to the widely shared belief that privacy is a right. People seem to agree – quite passionately – that their privacy and security matter more than the profits of a tech company.

The result of all this controversy is that people want a change. There’s a big desire building for a new system where the privacy and security of our personal data is respected and assured.

It’s possible that the solution could be blockchain technology.

The blockchain approach

Blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is well-suited to building systems with privacy and security at the forefront.

The technology is by nature decentralized, transparent, secure, and anonymous. For these reasons, it has the potential to shift the balance of power in the online world.

By using blockchain responsibly to build new systems for handling data, it’ll be possible to move power away from established centralized platforms like Facebook and Google and return control to users.

One of the companies working towards this goal is Kind Ads. Entrepreneur Neil Patel, an advisor for the company, said in an interview with CoinCentral:

“it’s going to change the digital marketing landscape because you’ll be able to cut out the middleman more than anything else, and this industry really needs it.”

The ‘middleman’ here is the all-powerful platforms, the Facebooks, and Googles who dominate the space and require advertisers to work through them. By moving to a more decentralized model, users will be able to work with ad companies directly and decide who gets to access and use their data.

It’s a better model for everyone. Users retain control of their personal data, and advertisers can target people who really want to see their ads.

It’s a new way of doing things, one that ensures more peace of mind for users and a fairer way of handling sensitive data. And it’s sorely needed.

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Founder of Tech Geeks Pakistan and Digital Doers. Hira is also a public speaker and columnist who shares her views on Startups, AI, chatbots and Blockchain technology on VentureBeat, The Next Web and Tech In Asia.

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How Will Blockchain Tech Impact Healthcare Investors? 0 180

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase, three economic juggernauts, announced they’re teaming up to tackle healthcare, a sector of the economy that’s proven elusive for presidents and private-sector reform efforts alike.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos weighed in on healthcare costs, commenting that “reducing health care’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort.”

No question, Bezos is right. But radical reform in the U.S. healthcare system might not come from these massive, centralized global players. Instead, the world’s newest transformative technology could hold the answers and affect stock prices across the board in one of the tallest pillars of the economy.

Blockchain in healthcare, blockchain everywhere?

A 2016 Deloitte study offered up that “Blockchain technology has the potential to transform health care, placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem and increasing the security, privacy, and interoperability of health data.”

Blockchain, which creates a decentralized, autonomous network of trust to share and record information, offers myriad benefits for both patients and care providers: a secure exchange of information without intermediaries, lower costs, secure patient identities, ease of sharing real-times updates across parties; smart contracts; and secure longitudinal health data for each patient.

As Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jaime Diamond know, the healthcare market is massive, offering a significant opportunity for emerging companies to reduce costs, improve care, and deliver better outcomes for patients. Right now, healthcare in the United States comprises 17% of annual GDP with an aging population providing a consistent tailwind.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) says there is “massive untapped potential” to change the healthcare sector for the better through blockchain technology. For one, Blockchain tech can secure HIPAA-compliant data sharing across networks. A number of use cases have cropped up as a result. In a comment on the opportunity tech reporter Mike Butcher said illustratively that a blockchain record could “follow you around so you could avoid yet another dose of radiation because your record said you’d already had 50 head X-rays.” Moreover a raft of applications emerged between smart contracts, data tokenization, and blockchain combinations with AI and machine learning.

Blockchain smart contracts will automate transactions and reduce inefficiency,” says entrepreneur Adryenne Ashley. “Using smart contracts to track disease, cause and effect, treatment and results will be critical to learning and understanding how each patient responds.” Having that data automatically written to the blockchain eliminates delay in data analysis and creates a bridge between practitioners and researchers, leading to cures.

Blockchain companies with tokens will introduce new commerce and incentive systems. And combining blockchain technology with advancements in AI and machine learning will provide new insights and further improve care. In 2018, several new blockchain startups are launching across various areas in healthcare, representing some of the best applications of the technology to accomplish those goals.

Big Medicine taps into data

The fragmented, inaccessible nature of current electronic medical record systems alone millions. John Halamka, the chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, developed a secure-data exchange, MedRed, and advises another blockchain company, Simply Vital Health, as it builds a platform to streamline healthcare data management and reduce the costs of bundled payments. In the Harvard Business Review, Halamka wrote that blockchain protocol can “standardize secure data exchange in a less burdensome way than previous approaches.”

The rest of the healthcare industry is following Halamka’s lead. 16% of healthcare executives surveyed by IBM have “solid plans” to implement a commercial blockchain solution this year, with 56% planning to do so by 2020.

Supply chain

IBM, one of the corporate behemoths investing in blockchain technology, sees supply chain management as one of the key areas where blockchain can make an immediate improvement. The technology will enable “more secure and transparent monitoring of transactions” which will reduce time, cost, and human error.

Gem, one of the early companies to watch in this space, has a supply chain management software platform that “boosts the ‘collective intelligence,’ or Data IQ, from previously siloed data” allowing organizations to increase efficiency, accuracy, and speed of supply chain transactions. ShipChain, too, backed by DHL’s former CEO, launched its platform to tidy up the fractured transportation and shipping industry including medical freight and hazardous materials.

Tackling fraud

A favorite target among the federal enforcement crowd–myself included–Blockchain technology could also tackle the massive amount of fraud in the healthcare market. A 2012 study by the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the RAND Corporation estimated that fraud accounted for $98 billion of total Medicare and Medicaid spending and up to $272 billion across the entire U.S. healthcare system. Through secure, immutable records, blockchain ledgers could be one of the best tools to cut down of fraud, from false reimbursements to theft of patient records to gain access to prescription drugs.

What’s in store for 2018

The story of 2017 was the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies with plenty of bearishness coming from marquee investors. That said even after a big correction, the biggest cryptocurrencies are up thousands of percentage points over the last twelve months. The bigger story is unfolding away from volatility, as blockchain companies look to solve big problems in healthcare. Rest assured that from an investment perspective the likes of Buffett and Bezos will take notice.

5 Broken Systems that the Blockchain can Fix 0 285

blockchain

5We’ve all heard the expression “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But lately that seems to apply less and less to many of our existing systems. From banking and education, to advertising and politics; wide scale reparations are needed. But how do we go about fixing these defective models? Enter the blockchain.

What’s been labeled the most revolutionary technology since the internet, many of us are still struggling to understand how it works, let alone get our heads around how far reaching its implications may be.

But just like AOL and email were to the internet, cryptocurrency is just the first in one of blockchain’s many uses. “Blockchain has legitimate potential to change the world,” wrote Drew Prindle at Digital Trends, and it seems, he could be right. Here are at least five broken systems that the blockchain can potentially fix.

The Supply Chain

The supply chain is full of gaping cracks and black holes industrywide. Product markups, missing merchandise, currency conversions, inaccurate recording keeping, or failure to comply with agreed-upon terms can all be fixed with blockchain technology. As a public ledger available to all, updating in real time without human interaction, there’s no longer the opportunity for occurances to go undocumented or unaccounted for.

By operating with an “if/then” logic, (if you provide 100 kilos of bananas, then I will transfer X funds into your account), smart contracts can enforce the terms without human interaction or manipulation. Once a transaction is made it is irreversible. Not only does blockchain have the potential to wipe out corruption and increase accountability, it can cut out the middlemen, making for cheaper products for the end user.

Cybersecurity

There have been plenty of headlines about hacking scandals and fraud. Research by Ernst & Young found that some 10 percent of all ICO funding had been stolen. The problem is not with the technology itself, however, but with the secondary software built to store cryptocurrency, including wallets, exchanges, and custodial services.

Andrew Hinkes, adjunct professor at NYU Law School and practicing attorney with a focus on blockchain, explains, “Generally speaking, blockchains create an audit trail of all activity by its participants, which simplifies access control and monitoring.

Blockchains can also be used for hardware and software version control and sourcing, which can simplify version control and updating issues. Using a public blockchain with proof of work consensus can remove the foibles of human mistake or manipulation.”

Online Advertising

Most of us hate advertising online. In fact, some 40 percent of all Millennials use adblockers when surfing the net. But beyond annoying pop-ups, the severity of the problem in the advertising industry is starting to come to light. A German court recently ruled that Facebook’s use of personal data and privacy settings was illegal. The Center for Humane Technology has been established in an attempt to protect people’s privacy and curb their tech addition.

Using the blockchain could soon put an end to these problems, as it democratizes data due to its transparency and decentralization. No one company is able to own or sell your personal data anymore. This means that not only are people allowed to manage their own data but they can monetize it as well, thanks to blockchain’s ability to record micro fragments and create new value opportunities.

Monetization of even the smallest amounts of data becomes possible, from the number of steps you’re taking daily recorded in your Fitbit, to how many times you click a certain ad. More and more companies are allowing consumers to authorize their data use, and monetize it by dealing directly with the companies who want to buy it. Advertisers get the data they need and consumers are rewarded for it, while having control over who uses it and how.

The Underbanked

The financial system has many problems, beyond high transaction fees, conversion rates, and transfer delays, many people are not being granted access. Larry Boyer, Certified Business Economist and President of Success Rockets comments, “One of the most promising uses for pure currencies is to help people who don’t have access to the traditional banking system. In the US, that is the rural and urban poor and developing countries.”

The unbanked can also engage in global commerce thanks to cryptocurrency. Currently, for example, it’s not profitable for the traditional banking system to service customers below a certain threshold. But with cryptocurrency, a poor farmer in Kenya or Colombia can prove creditworthiness by having the cryptocurrency in their wallet. This will open up the entire market for companies and allow more and more people access to goods and services.

Elections

We may never know what really happened in the 2016 elections, but with accusations of fraud being hurled from one side to the other, imagine if we could put an end to voter fraud once and for all? And in developing countries where rigged elections and violent protests are often par for the course, blockchain’s immutability can guarantee clean elections.

Companies like Follow My Vote make sure that all votes are permanent and impossible to tamper with. Thanks to the decentralization of the blockchain, it would be practically impossible for hackers to break in and skew the results. Since every block in the chain is linked, they would need to simultaneously change the entire blockchain, a virtually impossible feat.

The blockchain is set to revolutionize many areas of our lives for the better. And if we can put it to good use fixing just one broken system in our society, we’ll be on the right path to making amends for our current failings.

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