When it comes to big data, there's a fine line between cool and creepy. Many consumers are totally okay with being served ads based on their browsing history; in fact, it makes their shopping experience easy in a lot of ways. Cool.
But then there are technologies like in-store facial recognition that start to get into that gray area of privacy violation. As a technology lover, I think it's cool, as a person...I'm not sure.
A couple years ago, I wrote a sensitive email to a family member about a medical condition and the next day, like clockwork, I was being served ads by medical institutions. It felt like a huge violation. So, I eventually decided that I chose to use a technology to communicate sensitive information and would never do that again because the monitoring thing is, indeed, creepy.
Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why Bitcoin is so attractive to people. We want at least some of our transactions to be entirely private.
Because of Bitcoin, blockchain technology as certainly crept into the public's collective consciousness as of late. Entrepreneurs all over the world are recognizing the people's need for privacy and protection and understand how powerful blockchain can be in delivering a solution.
One of the most interesting facets of crypto technology is the notion of decentralized payments, which means the currency doesn't belong to any particular country and only exists online. It also isn't connected to any big banks and is completely anonymous.
"We are experiencing a paradigm shift as we move from the Social Web (Web 2.0) into the Decentralized Web (Web 3.0)," says Nick Allen, Product Director of Zap. "The two first generations of the web brought us decentralized information, whereas Web 3.0 decentralizes transactions and payment."
With Bitcoin, for example, you can transact online and receive payment instantly, because there's no bank to verify the sender. There are also hardly any transaction or exchange fees and no potential for chargebacks. Blockchain keeps a ledger of all transactions; the transactions are secured through cryptography, and the history of the transactions is locked in blocks of data, replicated on every computer that uses the network.
Bitcoin enthusiasts believe that decentralization makes our world a fairer place, which raises the question, what else needs to be decentralized?
The possibilities are vast.
Businesses like Zap, for example, are building on the success of Bitcoin and using blockchain technology to help end users cut back on transaction fees and keep their data safe. Allen and his team have developed Smart Contracts to help automate and streamline the agreement execution process.
"While finance and banking are obvious targets for blockchain's disruptive potential, there are other industries that will benefit from widespread adoption," according to Joe Liebkind of GeekTime. "Gaming, transportation and logistics, and even agriculture are in blockchain's sights."
Decentralization across the web will certainly put more power in the hands of the people, who will be freer to execute private, peer-to-peer transactions, but what happens to existing conglomerates when this becomes the norm?
"As we move from the Social Web (Web 2.0) into the Decentralized Web (Web 3.0) smart contracts and smart contract platforms will be the underlying infrastructure of this emerging iteration of the internet," says Allen. "The decentralized web will take marketshare away from existing financial institutions and financial services such as insurance, loans, and banking."
Widespread decentralization will obviously not happen over night. But when it does, it will certainly transform numerous industries - marketing, for one, will not have access to as much data as before. Hopefully this will ignite a fire in creative entrepreneurs to find solutions that will grow business, while maintaining privacy standards with integrity.