There is no doubt that data has become the primary commodity of the 21st century. It's immeasurably powerful, but as a society, we're only just beginning to understand the profound influence it has over our everyday lives.
In the wrong hands, it can do incredible damage to us personally, our democracies and the institutions we cherish. A fact that was reaffirmed to me when watching 'The Great Hack' on Netflix last night.
It's compulsive viewing and revolves around Cambridge Analytica's subversive use of data to help influence (among many other things) the outcome of the last US election and Brexit.
There is no doubt that society is still playing catch-up with the strategic weaponisation of our personal data. The more you think about it, the more sinister and scary it becomes!
Just last week, the Oxford Technology and Elections Commission published a report recommending that the UK takes immediate action to reduce the risk of malicious activity ahead of the looming general election.
This type of interference is called 'Astroturfing' meaning an attempt to create the impression for widespread support or opposition to a policy, individual, or narrative where little or no such sentiment exists.
It's hugely disappointing, although somewhat predictable that tech giants such as Facebook have been deliberately slow to react to the 3rd party abuse of our data.
Interestingly, an overwhelming majority of millennial respondents to a recent Delloite survey have serious concerns about privacy and cyber issues, so perhaps the writing is already on the wall or at least in the process of being written?
However, it's not all bad news. With so much bad press and the gradual emergence of Web 3.0, it may not be long until there is a seachange in both attitude and opportunity!
At SOAK, we work with data every day of the week. Not in a sinister or divisive way, but constructively, to tell stories and build experiences that enlighten and educate people. So, we're genuinely excited about Web 3.0 and the many opportunities that will come with it.
Web 2.0 predominantly focused on users' interaction with others. Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web, will allow us to focus more on the users themselves by delivering them more accessible and relevant content.
Decentralisation is central to Web 3.0 and given the way large corporations are currently using/selling our data with impunity, it will be welcomed by many.
How will it happen?
Decentralisation will largely be driven by peer to peer connectivity and protocols that use links to identify content on what it is, rather than where it is.
This content-centric approach allows files/data to be stored and passed from computer to computer, rather than a single server acting as the one conduit for exchanging information.
So, what's the holdup?
A combination of things. Technical challenges, public apathy and the incumbent tech giants incredibly strong foothold (right now there are 2.7 billion people on Facebook).
However, over the next few years, I'm confident that things will gradually start to change. More and more initiatives are emerging that will challenge the status quo, moving us (somewhat ironically) towards Tim Berners-Lee's vision of a new, decentralised web.
Here are a few that we think are worth are a few minutes of your time:
Decentralised document authoring and storage
A collaboration between Sir Tim Berners-Lee and MIT to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy.
A collaboration between the BBC and The University of Nottingham to develop a platform for managing secure access to data, enabling 3rd parties to provide the owner with authenticated control and accountability.
A decentralised blockchain-based blogging and social media platform, which rewards its users with cryptocurrency for publishing and curating content.
A fast, private and secure web browser for PC and mobile. It blocks ads and trackers. Download now to enjoy a faster ad-free browsing experience!
Surely it's only a matter of time before the next killer app or Dapp (Decentralised App) is released, and the floodgates will well and truly open. For me, it can't come soon enough!