If it is one thing that Facebook has been famous for over the past few years, it is blatant mishandling of user data. This has caused its reputation to plummet and regulators to take notice of the billions-strong platform.
However, the CEO might have an approach in mind to prevent data breaches and such events from occurring. Going off the idea that Facebook is as good as anyone’s online identity, Mark Zuckerberg has expressed interest in introducing blockchain to the social media network.
Blockchain can be used for revolutionary identity management systems owing to its trustless nature. The blockchain’s structure is also a good fit for this task. Will it benefit an operation on the scale of Facebook?
Blockchain For Decentralized Identity
The working idea for an identity blockchain is tokenization. An individual’s personal information is stored on the blockchain in the form of a digital asset. All information pertaining to the individual in question is encoded within the token.
This token, or a representation of this token, can be used to facilitate easy information transfer between a user and a company. In this model, the individual owns the personal data and can choose who to share it with without the need for an intermediary.
For example, a ‘Facebook’ identity token could be created that allowed for specific parts of an individual’s profile to be shared. This token can be sent across instead of asking for a Facebook sign-in in an app, making the process a lot more secure and consensual.
In a setting like Facebook’s, it would mean that any apps in the vast network of the ‘Connect API’ could access user information in a decentralized manner. Moreover, the user will have the ability to fine tune what kind of information is passed on, taking the first step in preventing scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica one.
Facebook’s Plan And Its Potential Impact
Zuckerberg expressed his interest in implementing blockchain in Facebook’s architecture in an interview with Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain. Last year, they conducted a reshuffle at the higher levels of the company, moving Messenger VP David Marcus to a blockchain task force. Their acquisitions have also been pointing to a bigger move towards blockchain, as seen by them buying smart contracts firm Chainspace.
There have also been reports of the company trying to make its own cryptocurrency. This so-called Facebook Coin will be used for cross-border transactions between users and will be developed in-house.
Zuckerberg described the architecture of a possible system, stating, “You basically take your information, you store it on some decentralized system, and you have the choice of whether to log in in different places, and you’re not going through an intermediary. There’s a lot of things that I think would be quite attractive about that. For developers, one of the things that are really troubling about working with our system is that you don’t want to have an intermediary between serving the people who are using your service and you.”
This will be implemented as an upgrade to the existing Facebook Connect API. This API is what enables authentication to a service through a user’s Facebook account. It usually takes the form of a “Sign in with Facebook Button”.
Even though the blockchain upgrade to Connect effectively means that Facebook will not be able to revoke access to developers that violate their terms of service, it sets a good precedent for the company. Putting the data in the hands of the user not only promotes better digital hygiene but also shows that the company is taking user privacy seriously.
Such efforts represent the shift of big organizations such as Google and Facebook to more decentralised option. This effectively creates an environment of open access to social media accounts. This blockchain effort could decide the future of every individual’s identity on the Internet and beyond.
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