Why Cambridge Analytics is Unlikely to Survive in a Blockchain World

Why Cambridge Analytics is Unlikely to Survive in a Blockchain World

The current furore over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s use of sensitive, personal information has shown us why big data is big business and also highly controversial.

With increasingly sophisticated techniques in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, data is now offering insights into markets and consumer behaviour that have led some to refer to it as the “oil of the 21st century”. 

The Current Data Monopoly

Good data – lots of it, as well as the ability to churn through it in meaningful ways – has become, arguably, the most important element in maintaining a competitive edge within a range of markets.

However, as the Cambridge Analytics episode has shown, the market is dominated by a small number of data brokers who collect a broad array of personal information on each of us – often without our permission – and who then analyse, aggregate and re-package it all before selling on to interested parties at a huge mark-up.

On the other hand, the people who generate the raw data which makes all of this possible – online users – are left out of the loop entirely. We neither know what data we are providing nor do we receive any kind of share in the proceeds that we are generating for others. 

This is where blockchain technologies likely have an important role to play. Combined with crypto-graphic signature methods, the Blockchain’s inherent transparency and security now offer up the ability to put forward an entirely new data management model that puts users back in control. 

Research and marketing company Opiria are the latest outfit to propose one such solution: they are creating a platform where users choose what data they expose to the outside world, and how much they are willing to accept as payment to release it. 

Blockchain-based Personal Data Management Platforms

Through its PDATA token, Opiria, currently in its ICO phase, plans to create a “global decentralized marketplace” offering the ability to engage in “transparent trading of personal data on the blockchain.

This radical overturning of the market in personal data is based on the self-sovereignty identity principle, that, “an individual is able to control his/her identity attributes (that is, the pieces of personal data), no matter where they reside”, or that your personal data is under your control.

The ICO has drawn support from Romanian MEP Daciana Sârbu, who describes herself as a strong believer in the self-sovereignty identity principle, and “the idea that people own their personal data and should be able to monetise this data as they, not others, choose.

The drawback, however, is that users themselves will be expected to actively engage in conscious reflection of how their data is managed. And there are plenty of consumers who are happy to leave things be. 

“You now have a number of blockchain-based data management platforms such as Datum and DataWallet competing in this new personal data management space,” says Gavin Mann, blockchain seed investor, “and my suspicion is that the eventual market leader will be the platform which offers maximum personal data monetisation and protection in exchange for minimal user input.”