Is it Truly Possible for You to Have Full Ownership of Your Online Information?

Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French statesman, and military leader, once said that war is 90% information. And if there is an area where this statement is 100% true, it is in the business world. According to a 2016 report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will exceed $203 billion by 2020.




The meteoric rise in the value of big data is as a result of the robust growth of IoT and analytic technologies in AI and Machine Learning, not to mention that the consumers of today are now doing most of their shopping online. While there is no doubt that big data analytics is the most important tool for competitive advantage, the approach taken in order to leverage it is marred by ethical and legal issues. However, this is about to come to an end through a new and revolutionary technology.


Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, is threatening to disrupt the big data and analytics market by enabling consumers to be in control of their own data and by giving businesses access to high-quality data at very low costs. The move will not only ensure wealth distribution in the industry but will also enhance regulatory compliance.


Traditionally, businesses collect data from consumers by tracking their online activity through data tracking tools such as internet cookies. While these tools make it possible for advertisers to target consumers with relevant ads, they are known to compromise privacy and are usually subject to being used for malicious purposes.


For instance, back in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that Orbitz Worldwide, an online travel agency, was using IP address data to target consumers with Mac computers with pricier hotels than the PC users. While this is not illegal, it is not in the best interest of the consumer.


In an extreme instance, Uber, the taxi sharing service, was in the limelight in 2014 after it emerged that the company was using its big data analytics capabilities to discredit reporters who were writing negative stories about it. Apparently, Uber was digging up data on the personal lives of these reporters and exposing them to the public. The company came under scrutiny again in 2017 after it was exposed for paying hackers to conceal a hack which had affected 57 million customers and drivers. 


Rampant instances of consumer data abuse are the reason governments are stepping up with regulatory requirements. For instance, in the UK there is new privacy regulation requiring that companies obtain permission and clarify their intentions for data use before acquiring and processing personal data.  This regulation is going to take effect in May 2018. This law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will also require companies to obtain consent from consumers before targeting them with advertisements.


While regulation will ensure consumers’ privacy, it will also make the big data analytics process expensive and complex. However, through blockchain technology, companies will be able to adhere to such regulations without incurring extra costs. The technology aims to achieve this by moving the power of data control from companies to legal owners of the data. 


Blockchain platforms such as VALID are already working towards making it possible for individuals to take control of their personal data by giving them a choice of when, where, and how their data is used by companies. Through the technology, consumers are able to receive rewards for sharing their data and also have the liberty to determine if and what type of ads they should receive. 


Brave, a web browser founded by Brendan Eich, a co-founder of the Mozilla project, also utilizes blockchain to enable users to control their data by blocking website trackers and removing intrusive internet ads.  The platform encourages its users to share their data with businesses by providing an incentive system where those who share their data get rewards in the form of tokens.


For businesses, blockchain powered big data and analytics platforms provide an avenue where they can acquire top quality data faster and at low prices. With these platforms, there is also a guarantee that the data is secure, meaning that there is no need to worry about lawsuits or bad publicity emanating from data breaches.