Consumers and enterprises are exiting centralized web platforms amid growing concerns over unwarranted data sharing. Loss of privacy and data leakage are the primary drivers leading users away from web giants such as Google and Facebook. In some cases, disaffected users are seeking out decentralized alternatives that facilitate personal data ownership.
Facebook and Google Keep Leaking Data
The opaque data sharing practices of internet oligarchs such as Google and Facebook, which wield huge power over billions of web users, have attracted significant attention throughout 2018. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the more recent revelations that Facebook shared users’ private messages with privileged partners, the disclosures have kept coming.
NYT investigation: Internal Facebook records show that the company gave Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix and other tech giants far more intrusive access to your personal data than it ever disclosed https://t.co/lT3yQpodkw
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 19, 2018
Minds.com, disillusioned by the current state of affairs, has vowed to boycott the web monopolies altogether. On Dec. 19, the company explained its stance, writing of Google, Facebook and other closed-source networks’ unfair practices, which include “excessive surveillance, data mining, algorithm manipulation, subjective bans, inconsistent enforcement of terms and even complete de-platforming.” It concluded:
In response, Minds is suspending our support of all Google and Facebook products until the above mentioned items are resolved.
The Quest for Decentralized, Censorship-Resistant Platforms
Platforms as multifaceted as Google are not easily replaced like for like. However, there are alternatives for users who desire more privacy, full sovereignty over their data and reassurance that they will not suddenly be suspended without warning for supposed infringements. In its blog post on Dec. 19, Minds.com wrote of privacy-focused alternatives such as Duckduckgo and Brave that are championing the flight towards less data-hungry platforms.
The BANKS are the enemy of free speech and of The People.
Will ONE bank stand up for the first amendment online?
Bitcoin is the answer. https://t.co/bXATOJrs5v
— Gab.com (@getongab) December 22, 2018
While the web’s largest companies have caught flak for their data handling practices and their propensity to ban users with little provocation, it’s not just Facebook and Google that have been guilty of this. Patreon, under pressure from payment processors, has been merrily deplatforming users, while online services such as Slack have been exiling users on the grounds of Iranian heritage under fear of U.S. sanctions. The spate of perma-bans, data leaks and privacy scandals has been a boon for decentralized platforms that are oriented around personal ownership of data.
New Data Storage Solutions Are Coming Online
Doc.com is a cryptocurrency-powered service with a series of health apps that facilitate free medical and psychological consultations. It’s taken the distributed data storage route. “Because we handle extremely sensitive healthcare data,” explained CEO Charles Nader, “we knew that following the centralized model Google and Facebook have was not the best idea.” Nader spoke of using cryptographic protocols, including blockchain technology, to store data and ensure it is only accessed by authorized parties. “This way we give control back to our users,” he finished.
Other projects that have launched decentralized data storage frameworks this year include Essentia and Inrupt, the latter led by internet godfather Tim Berners-Lee. The project speaks of “decentralizing the power that’s currently centralized in the hands of a few” which it proposes to achieve through an open source protocol called Solid. For now, the vast majority of the web is hostage to the likes of Google and Facebook, and is too deeply embedded in their ecosystem to contemplate an escape. The tide is slowly turning, however, and with each new entity excluded from the web’s dominant platforms, the case for decentralized alternatives strengthens.
Do you think decentralized platforms will see mainstream adoption, or are they destined to remain the preserve of privacy purists? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter, and Doc.com.
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