Why Your Online Privacy and Security is Under Threat — Blockchain Is Here to Change That 5 1927

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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Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 51975

In this writer’s opinion the NFT hype is warranted — but not for the reason most people are investing. 

For those who’ve been in the space since Bitcoin’s early surge, you’ll remember the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017. The crowdfunding vehicle, which mirrored an IPO on the public market, brought with it massive amounts of investment into the blockchain space that seemed to mirror Bitcoin’s rapidly increasing value. 

In retrospect, none of it made sense. 

With all the hype, the investment in the space didn’t match due diligence. As of August 2018, investors had lost nearly $100M in ICO exit scams, a major reason we no longer hear about ICOs. 

From there, crowdfunding through token sales was rebranded alongside SEC regulation as Security Token Offerings (STOs). Additional fundraising iterations to enter the scene are Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs).

NFTs are having a similar moment to the immature and potentially reckless ICO market of 2017. The danger can be credited to a mix of hype and a widely unregulated environment with various points of entry and gatekeepers that are not incentivized to shore up fraud. 

As a result, many purchasers of NFTs are falling victim to a spectrum that spans undeserving projects on the mild end and outright scams at the extreme. Meanwhile, hackers are exploiting the unregulated environment. 

Just yesterday, $3 million in NFTs were stolen via an Instagram phishing scam. 

This writer, however, is still bullish on NFTs — just not the ones that are getting all the attention.

NFTs represent a concrete entry-point into the blockchain with a tangible utility and infinite disruptive implications. 

Here are a few.

Digital Assets as Social Proof 

As a Millennial, I personally have a hard time understanding the notion of owning and assigning value to a digital asset, but my kids don’t. 

I’ve written about how Gen Z has already adopted the concept of social proof in digital environments by assigning socially relevant value to digital assets like video game skins. 

As Gen Z ages and becomes an increasingly powerful consumer population, this experience will matter. Whether or not their purchase behavior translates to adulthood remains to be seen, but our kids are already leveraging digital assets in the metaverse to exhibit their position in the social hierarchy in the same way that my generation assigned value to Jansport-brand backpacks. 

Their concept of digital assets will be fundamentally different from ours, and NFTs are likely to benefit. 

But Why Are NFTs Relevant to Me Now?

Social proof is far from the most interesting use case for NFTs. 

In the near-term, NFTs can be utilized to store sale information of physical goods on the blockchain in order to eliminate nefarious actors in fraud-riddled industries like fine wine and art. 

Moreover, NFTs can disrupt any industry with a substantial secondary market. By coding royalties into the smart contract of NFTs, original sellers of wine, art and other trade-susceptible brands and industries can ensure they’ll capture a fee anytime an item is transferred. 

This solves a major problem for creators like photographers, artists and musicians that are notoriously underpaid in comparison to the value they create for brokers. It also has the potential to cut out middlemen like auction houses, record labels, and galleries to democratize the creator economy. 

Other Innovators Have Introduced Creative Use Cases for NFTs

Gary Vaynerchuk utilizes NFTs as tickets for events and other value-adds to his community. Forbes introduced a series of NFT Billionaires that will update alongside the real-time NYSE to gamify their user’s NFT experience in a way that’s brand-relevant. Foxies.art is using a gamified version of NFTs to fundraise blockchain education for women. 

The utility of NFTs is confined only by the imagination of our innovators. Whether or not NFT headlines today will remain relevant is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the disruption is only beginning. 

Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans Comments Off on Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans 48970

The move is the first for a major retirement plan provider and may signal more widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency. 

On April 26, Fidelity announced its intention to add a Bitcoin investment option to its 401(k) retirement plans. Employees of businesses that pursue the option will be able to allocate as much as 20% of their contributions to Bitcoin, all from the company’s main investment dashboard. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Fidelity said that at least one employer has already signed up for the option which will launch later this year.

“Fidelity’s leadership, especially CEO Abby Johnson, has been at the forefront of institutional Bitcoin and crypto integration for years and is no stranger to the space, with Fidelity’s private equity and venture capital arm being a major source of capital for crypto miners, crypto SPACs, crypto hedge funds and more,” says Eric Lamison-White, Director at STS Capital Group LLC, a cross-border advisory and investment firm. “It is completely in character for Fidelity to steadily and cautiously extend access to their working class customers as the regulatory climate becomes more productive.”

Critics suggest that the volatility of Bitcoin poses an unnecessary risk to a retirement portfolio. It’s a reasonable argument. At the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency’s price has fallen by more than 6% just today. Meanwhile, at $37,978 it’s a far cry from Bitcoin’s high of $68,000, representing more than a 40% drop since November 10th of last year. 

However, advocates of cryptocurrency’s long-term utility disagree.

“Cryptocurrency is a reliable, long-term store of value because it cannot be corrupted by central authorities,” says Lisa Carmen Wang, founder of The Bad Bitch Empire, a platform for female investors in web3. “We’ve already seen hyperinflation, bank failures, and other egregious disasters happen in the last few years, so trust in governments is at an all-time low. Crypto is inevitably volatile now because it is an early stage high-risk/high-reward investment, but for those who believe in the values of a decentralized economy, crypto is an attractive long-term investment that people should consider having in their portfolio.”

Regardless of your appetite for risk, the notion that savers will be able to easily manage contributions to Bitcoin in a respected retirement plan is meaningful.

As of last year, 63% of US adults that did not hold crypto were curious about it. Many people in the crypto-curious category don’t invest because they simply don’t know how. There’s a technological barrier to entry that can feel daunting. 

When you have major retirement plan managers like Fidelity making it easy to add Bitcoin to a portfolio through a dashboard users are already familiar with, we may see this group start investing in the asset class, moving digital currencies further along toward mainstream adoption.

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