What connection might the blockchain technology have with social media? Well, social media networking has been a part of people’s everyday lives for the past few years since the emergence of social media giant Facebook followed by Twitter, Instagram, and others. Then came social media mobile apps which further probed usage by smartphone users.
Many people still don’t get it but in fact studies show that teens spend nine hours every day on their social media accounts and that majority of social media users socialize online than in person. This already shows us how widespread social networking already is and how it changed our society.
However, a concern that most people have with regard to social platforms is privacy. In light of the latest Facebook data leak wherein Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had to testify to the US Congress. Issues tackled in this testimony included data of 87 million users being sold to Cambridge Analytica in support of Donald Trump and Facebook’s business model of selling data unethically. Because of these privacy issues, Facebook received a lot of backlash both from the Congress and the public alike.
Let’s be serious, I guess we still just saw the tip of the iceberg and just a small example of what Facebook is selling in regards to private data or data in general.
The Treatment of Data by Mainstream Social Media
As we mentioned above, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter alike use a business model wherein they gather information from users in exchange for their usage of the app. These companies then sell the data to clients who want to target their advertising.
While most people are shocked that social media platforms do this, this condition is actually stipulated in the Terms and Conditions (in very small print) that social media platforms actually have the right to share your data. Let’s take Facebook’s Terms and Conditions of Service for example.
If you look at 2. Sharing Your Content and Information, Facebook states that you own everything you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared in your network. However, the first clause of this section also states that your photos and videos (IP content) that you post can be transferable by the platform. That’s one way of breaching your privacy.
Now, take a look at 9. About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook. The first sections allow Facebook to give out your name, profile picture, content, and other information to businesses for commercial means. Facebook also says that the platform will always ask your consent before doing so, although most people ignore the “consent” message.
The Role of Blockchain Technology
While the internet certainly doesn’t offer optimal privacy to its users, Blockchain emerged as one of the key answers to this problem. Blockchain was first invented 8 years ago with Bitcoin, garnering the interest of investors because of its volatile price movement. While it was mostly seen as a profitable investment medium, blockchain, which is the technology that power Bitcoin, is more than just a money-making tool.
The blockchain is a decentralized ledger that encrypts data, making it unable to be read. The data is maintained by the community itself wherein the community members block the data, making it safe and free from visibility. Although cryptocurrencies were the start of the blockchain, the use of the technology has gone beyond cryptocurrencies and has even entered the field of social networking. If you’re familiar with new social media platforms such as Obsidian or Nexus, you’ll realize that blockchain doesn’t share the same business model as that of regular social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. Your information is protected from being sold to companies who want to target ads.
The Difference of Blockchain
As compared to blockchain social media, there is no centralized system that collects your data. Blockchain-based social platforms do not monitor your data since everything is encrypted. That said, they can’t sell anything to businesses since they can’t see your data.
This is the whole idea behind Obsidian messenger when it created a messaging app using blockchain. Obsidian runs on a decentralized network and has a cryptocurrency that is used for supporting the blockchain. Because of the cryptocurrency and finance aspect of the business model, there is actually no need to sell data even if they could.
Enhanced Privacy and Security
Before the Senate hearing of Zuckerberg about an alleged data leak and mishandling, there was already a case last late 2017 about Facebook allegedly spying on their users via phone calls. When you download the Facebook mobile app, you will be asked permission for microphone use. As most people don’t really know the implication of this, it is common for people to just dismiss it. However, they don’t really know that Facebook can identify your background noises through your smartphone, especially conversations. Do you really want that?
This is something that is never rampant on a blockchain-powered social media platforms. As founder of Nexus Jade Mulholland states:
By decentralizing and encrypting all data and uploads, Nexus hopes to eliminate all invasion of privacy that large corporations are currently performing.
Privacy Problems Arising in Messaging Apps
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social platform that’s under fire for this privacy breach. Even popular messenger and call apps like Whatsapp, Viber, or Signal can’t fully impose security on their systems. That said, it is possible for other people, and especially the companies, to listen to conversations and even read your messages.
The problem with messengers like the ones we’ve mentioned above is that the meta-data of the messages exchanged aren’t protected. Sure, they have end-to-end encryption but that just isn’t enough to fully protect from third parties that may want to spy on conversations. So, even if they can’t really see the conversations per se, they may still know the source and the details of the source.
Obsidian aims to totally avoid any kind of surveillance by ensuring that the meta-data is scattered and therefore hard to trace. This is done through the blockchain ledger to prevent any data from leaking out.
Crowdfunding in the Blockchain Network
Through ICO’s, it is possible to raise a huge amount of capital for a blockchain project. As long as the developers make an attractive token or coin, crowdfunding success is not difficult to achieve. The best thing about crowdfunding via ICO is that there is no need for a third-party payment processor since the developer already uses its own currency for payments. Also, when you use the social network, you also use the currency for in-app purchases, purchasing of ads, and investing into the crowdfunding activity.
Take the example of Nexus. In Nexus, you can use Nexus’ own cryptocurrency to buy and sell anything in the network. You don’t need to bring out your credit card or deposit money into your bank account anymore, not as long as you have stock of the cryptocurrency.
Payments in the Blockchain Network
As in-app purchases and e-commerce has become popular on Facebook and Instagram, these platforms have also been looking for ways to make payments available easily via instant messaging similar to what Wechat does.
A blockchain type of payment can really be of help because of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies have their own specific purpose and can be traded on the same network. Furthermore, smart contracts make payments even safer because of signed contracts made online.
OK what now?
You have to ask yourself the question if you really think it is a good idea to store a massive amount of private data on a central system, controlled by company. We all know that it is still important to finance a service via targeted ads or whatever campaigns but should the access to your most private data or even your microphone, camera, biometric data really be part of that concept? I personally doubt that!
While social media is still widespread around the world, the growing concern about privacy and information theft is also becoming more widespread. Personal details and payment details being leaked is no laughing matter, especially if businesses decide to invade data of certain people. This is the reason why a blockchain social media platform is more viable than the traditional social networks that still rely on selling data for development.
Still many people think the blockchain is just a kind of a trend rather than a industry changing technology. In fact with a blockchain social network, your information kept safe from the surveillance of a central system and businesses availing from the central system. Also, your payment details never have to be given out because you’ll be using a cryptocurrency for purchases inside a private peer to peer network. In all angles, a blockchain-based social network definitely has more advantages than traditional social networks when it comes to overall privacy and security.
As soon as the blockchain is part of our daily lifes and people are getting aware of the differences to traditional platforms and concepts, Facebook and similar platforms will face pretty hard days.