Ontology Founder Li Jun Explains how Blockchain and Self Sovereign ID Solutions can Protect Users’ Privacy Online

Li Jun, Founder of Ontology, recently commented on how Self Sovereign Identity solutions will reshape or transform how we share data via the Internet.

Jun notes that each time you get on the internet, you’re adding your digital identity and are also creating a “virtual memory” of who you actually are, what type of information you review, and where you end up spending your Internet browsing or surfing time.

Jun asks:

“Have you ever wondered where this identity exists and who has access to it? … Internet users have very little oversight over the personal information they share with different platforms and how this is managed and stored. As the world increasingly moves online to offer key services, users must strive for better protection.”

The Ontology founder believes it’s essential that consumers have the right information and appropriate tools to navigate the conduits of the Internet.

He explains that Self Sovereign Identity (SSI) solutions are able to provide us with the tools needed to interact effectively with the Internet. He points out that blockchain or distributed ledger tech (DLT) has been designed to empower Internet users. Jun adds that SSI solutions assist users with gaining more control over their identity while they engage in an all-digital environment by “ensuring security and data management are at the forefront of every exchange.”

Jun further notes:

“Current limitations on data protection across the Internet mean that users too often blindly accept cookies and hand over their data to renowned hoarders. Cookies are little text files that websites store on your computer in order to track your activity. Regular cookies are essential for tracking your browser preferences and settings, however, third party cookies pose a more significant threat to your privacy as they track user settings across various websites, making it possible for companies to monitor your browsing activity long after you have left their platforms.”

Jun also notes that companies may show us targeted advertisements on a particular platform like Instagram for products that we might have reviewed on a different platform a long time ago. According to Jun, this might mean that these companies can “record, analyze, utilize, and potentially share a virtual map of everything you do on the Internet.”

He also mentioned that this unchecked harvesting of user data, facilitated by cookies and various other technologies, may lead to serious implications for maintaining user privacy. Jun adds that a large data breach recently compromised the emails and numbers of around 533 million users, making it “extremely easy for hackers and scammers to target users across the globe.”

Jun continued:

“European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has gone as far as to accuse tech giants of ‘monopolistic practices that tilt the market, perpetuating their dominance while reducing consumer choice and squeezing out competition.’”

Jun added:

“The unilateral control of virtual marketplaces by large companies, which facilitate the existence of other smaller businesses within their networks, means that they have ultimate control over what information and products are shown to which consumers. The smallest amount of consumer data can be collected and managed across internal different pools, not to mention shared across different platforms.”

Jun also noted that the information may then be “reused” or “remodeled” for their applications via human or “systematic” interference without the user knowing what’s actually going on. Jun pointed out that “with access to [large] amounts of … user data, these companies are able to shape user experiences and hone their marketplaces so that they remain on top.”

Jun added:

“While it would be easy to … blame … Big Tech companies, they are not t.he only ones that track the activity of their customers. Small businesses, educational institutes, and even news channels track users in order to learn about browsing times on their websites… This helps them to get insights about the people using their platforms ….  this process is beneficial for improving products and services …. It is when the tracking goes beyond the acceptable confines of data collection, through … third party cookies, that companies’ [activities] must be [addressed].”

Jun claims:

“In no other industry are you unequivocally required to exchange personal information in order to enter a public domain or buy products. Imagine if before purchasing your groceries or even entering a supermarket you were asked to write down your email and hand it to an employee who would then store it within the company’s personal records. This would never be allowed — so why do consumers passively accept the same practices online? The answer is that they are lacking the necessary information and technology to guard themselves against [misuse] of their private information.”

Jun went on to cite a study by the Pew Research Center which revealed that over 80% of participants said that the risks they face due to data collection on the Internet “outweigh the benefits.”

Jun added that this indicates that consumers are “not comfortable with how companies collect and store their personal information.” He pointed out that “the argument that consumers are happy to benefit from unchecked targeted advertising and tailored posts seems highly contentious in light of these findings.”

He continued:

“Users clearly want to protect their personal information and place barriers between companies and their data where necessary. The onus therefore is on tech companies to provide them with the right tools and information to do so. Blockchain can play a major role in placing consumers back in the driving seat with data privacy, by allowing them to control the private information on a network which only approved individuals can access.”

He further noted that Self-Sovereign Identity solutions must be used to “facilitate control of personal information by consumers.” He added that SSI systems provide users with a unique identifier that they are able to use to manage their identity and access online services with a single ID.

Jun claims that this method offers a means of data authorization and ownership confirmation, “giving respective users actual control of a particular asset.” He explained that the systems use Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs) to “assure that services only access the specific data they require to verify identity, thereby ensuring privacy protection and limiting the potential for services to continue tracking users’ activity beyond the realm of what they approve or even see.”

Jun also noted that different entities might develop strong trust relationships via mutual authentication between entities, meaning that “the sharing of information can be facilitated between parties in a way that is agreed beforehand.”

Jun adds that it’s now essential that consumers have “better oversight of how they are sharing personal information.” He also notes that tech firms must “move to equip users with the tools they need to effectively manage their data.”

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