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Blockchain can help data privacy

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Facebook (FB, -1.59%) could unwittingly be the world’s best advertisement for blockchain.

Even as the social media giant tries to shore up its privacy regime after data securities issues exposed the data of about 3 million users, privacy and security are likely to dog it—along with every other Internet-based company.

The good news is there may be a silver lining: The constant drumbeat of high-profile hacks of companies like Facebook, Target (TGT, +0.72%), and Equifaxcould accelerate the tipping point when the public embraces the notion that the Internet we depend on is truly broken, and when alternatives like blockchain gain greater acceptance.

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The problem with the public Internet is that its architecture and our desire for privacy are utterly incompatible. With every high-profile hack, that becomes more obvious. The network of computers we call the Internet operates as a giant copy-and-paste machine—copying information from one computer and pasting it to another when transferring data.

When we share vital information such as our name, date of birth, address, and social security number, that sensitive data is passed to third-party companies that require it. This creates two additional problems: We have to repeatedly fill out forms every time we interact with a new organization, and the firms that make copies and store our information in centralized databases are easy targets for hackers.

With data proliferating rapidly, it seems unlikely that the problem will improve without a new approach: The Internet generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, and 90% of all the data in the world was created in the last two years alone.

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A new approach that could help is distributed ledger technology (DLT).

A distributed ledger, or a public blockchain such as Ethereum, acts very differently from the Internet. Rather than making copies from one computer and pasting them to another when transferring information, with the blockchain, there is a transfer of ownership of the original information.

The public-private architecture of a blockchain clearly defines and improves the privacy of data in a digital format online. Blockchain technology creates counterfeit-proof information on a network we can trust. Instead of sharing our date of birth again and again, we have one permanent record of this information on the blockchain and then give temporary permission to access the official record when needed.

In this system, public information such as tax records, government records, and local school budgets can remain public while the private data of citizens and corporations can be private and secure.

This approach turns our current digital economy on its head. Today, we give away our data to companies like Facebook for free, and they monetize that information without sharing their revenues. In a blockchain system, your data is your own and only you have the private keys and ability to access this information. Then, you can share and monetize that data as you wish.

Square shares jump to a record high

 Payment company Square got the green light from regulators Monday allowing New Yorkers to trade cryptocurrency on the rapidly growing Cash app. 

Shares of the company hit a 52-week high after the announcement and have surged 88 percent this year.

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Banks' Blockchain Budgets Spiked 67% in 2017

 

The global financial services industry spent a combined $1.7 billion on blockchain development in 2017, with institutions having increased their individual budgets for the technology by 67 percent in the same year.

According to research published by U.S.-based market intelligence firm Greenwich Associates on Tuesday, amid the general increase, 10 percent of the surveyed banking institutions reported that their budgets for areas such as blockchain research and product development had grown to $10 million or more in 2017.

Furthermore, the report said 14 percent claimed to have already deployed a blockchain solution. Meanwhile, Greenwich Associates found that the shift from proof-of-concepts to live production is expected within the next two years in over 75 percent of the projects.

However, Richard Johnson, author of the report and vice president of the firm's market structure practice, said that over 50 percent of the executives interviewed said that implementing the technology "was harder than they expected."

The study, which earlier this year interviewed around 200 global institutions that have participated in blockchain development, said the number of staff dedicated to blockchain also doubled during the same period. Citing its interview results, the firm said that, in general, a top-tier bank now has around 18 full-time employees focusing on blockchain development.

The report signals the growing investments being made by financial institutions on blockchain technology over the past two years. In a survey published in early 2016, the firm estimated that total spending by financial and technology firms on blockchain in 2016 could reach $1 billion.

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Former Augur CEO Matt Liston has founded a blockchain religion called "0xΩ." Liston pronounces this as "Zero Ex Omega."

 

Matt Liston would like to publicly refute the claim that he is a "Cryptprophet." He'd also like to clarify that he is not the "Cryptsiah" or the "CryptChrist." ("I grew up Jewish," he points out.)

Despite being the originator of what may be the first blockchain-based religion, Liston is but a humble developer, and doesn't suggest to possess divine knowledge.

"It makes me uncomfortable to think about that," says Liston. "It seems inappropriate. If I'm claiming to start a religion, it's probably disingenuous if I claimed not to be a figure within the religion. But I don't like the sound of that."

Liston, who recently left his position as CEO of the blockchain project Augur amid a cloud of controversy, has spent the afternoon in Bodega Bay developing what he describes as "mechanisms for worship" for his new religious order, called 0xΩ (Liston pronounces this as "Zero Ex Omega"). The religion, which he unveiled along with artist Avery Singer at New York's New Museum last month, will present both a blockchain system for pre-established religions, and a new faith-based order of its own.

Singer has joined Liston to create the religious iconography for the project. At the New Museum, Singer presented a CGI art piece that she hopes will be used as 0xΩ's first sacred object. The circulation of this object, Singer suggested, might someday be used as "a form of prayer."

"We have this avatar I've created who is a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, an ethereum logo," Singer said at the New Museum as she muffled down laughter."There's tokens surrounding it. Anyways..."

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Ask Liston what 0xΩ is about, or what this blockchain-based belief system plans to worship, and his answers range from rambling to slightly enigmatic.


"We're incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness," he says. "And then, we'll elevate an individual interaction with a religious structure as a group participation in a collective consciousness where the structure itself is god."


Matt Liston Narwhal

A religious icon in the form of a narwhal. The piece is based off of a short animation created by artist Avery Singer. Ryan Duffin

Is Liston trolling us? Maybe.


"People are wondering, 'What the fuck is this?" Liston said."We're very self-aware of the how ridiculous the crypto industry is, and the fact that we've created the most out-there project possible. There's a little bit of self-referential mocking."


Singer, too, admitted that the project has invited skepticism from its potential acolytes.


"People seem to think it's a humorous project," Singer told me, her voice serious. "They're confused, and rightly so."


Liston said the similarities between religious belief and the evangelical fervor associated with cryptocurrencies inspired him to create a blockchain-based spiritual system.


"The store value of cryptocurrencies is solely dependent on how much other people believe they should have value," Liston said. "It's in this feedback loop of belief that operates like a religious system."


At the core, the project is centered on a use of the blockchain that Liston hopes will spearhead the technology's potential to enable artists. Liston envisions 0xΩ commissioning art through the blockchain similarly to the way the Catholic church has overseen ambitious artworks in the past.


"We want to bring in new types of thinking and push the boundaries for what the technologies can be used for," said Liston. "I'm obsessed and very driven by what these technologies can do, but I'm bored with it being a space that's dominated by engineers and finance people."

What is blockchain?

This great educational video will help anyone interested understand the limits and possibilities than can be achieved with Blockchain technology. Many major companies are already using and implementing Blockchain tech into our daily lives, for both our benefit as well as theirs. Watch now to learn just why Blockchain technology is getting so big and why it is a crucial milestone in technological history.

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