Data breaches raise public awareness of risks to privacy: Datum

November 13, 2018 15:45
Datum is a blockchain-powered decentralized database that allows anyone to securely store data, while ensuring that individuals maintain control over their personal data and allowing them to monetize their data on their own terms. Photo: Datum

(Last of a two-part interview)

In today's era of big data, businesses are collecting, aggregating, and analyzing all kinds of personal data they collect from customers to aid commercial decision-making. On the other hand, users of various internet and social media platforms sacrifice a bit of their privacy to access “free” services online.

Amid the widespread practice among corporate and social media platforms to "sell" their users' personal data to third parties, Roger Haenni, co-founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based blockchain startup Datum, said his company aims to establish a blockchain platform for data storage and transactions, allowing users to regain control of their personal data.

A user's personal information on the Datum blockchain, such as email address, will be encrypted and stored through the use of blockchain technology, and only the user will have absolute control over the data.

The user can choose to authorize individual merchants to send advertising messages to them, and will receive a token issued by Datum, named DAT, in return.

DAT tokens will be exchangeable for fiat currency or cashed out for gift vouchers from companies such as Amazon, according to the firm.

The project was cited in a blog post by Vitalik Buterin, founder of the Ethereum blockchain network, who introduces Datum as the Ethereum community’s contribution to the personal data marketplace.

User privacy is facing a lot of challenges as the internet continues to evolve. Social media platforms have exploited and commercialized users’ personal data, as shown in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the personal data of millions of Facebook users were harvested by the British political consultancy firm for commercial purposes without the users' consent.

On the other hand, the massive data breach at Cathay Pacific Airways, which involved the airline's 9.4 million passengers, has shown the high cost of poor data protection by enterprises.

Haenni believes that the data breaches have revealed the drawbacks of the “centralized” database storage system being used by enterprises while alerting the public to the importance of safeguarding and controlling their personal data.

“We can't get Facebook and Google to change the way they store their users’ data," Haenni said. "What we are basically doing with Datum blockchain platform is building an infrastructure where developers can properly get access to your data, in a way that the user maintains trust and control over it."

He believes that there will be growing privacy concerns among internet users, especially with regard to how companies handle consumer data.

Datum is building an infrastructure where developers can build services that make it really easy for them to store users' data securely. “We're doing all the complicated stuff and the developer [clients] will just get a very simple interface to store users’ data securely,” said Haenni.

First part: Datum blockchain business won't rely solely on token-economics

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EJ Insight writer