This week in Tapx Talks we were discussing one of the most important and, unfortunately, often neglected topics in the web3 industry. Data privacy.
Why is this an important topic? Well, there are over 4.7 billion internet users on the planet. They generate approximately 1.7 megabytes of data per second every day across social media accounts, emails, messengers, etc. And a huge amount of data is now being collected, stored, and used in different ways and we know literally nothing about it.
Some of the big challenges that we see in this space are breaches: malicious, accidental, or intentional. So privacy, security, and safety around people’s data is a really important topic.
We discussed privacy and data security in web3 with Maria Lema of Weaverlabs, Eshan Dalela of Joincircle, and Tom Holder of Tapx.
Here’s what you’ll learn from the recap of this conversation:
- Our speakers: Weaverlabs, Joincircle, and Tapx.
- Does the general public know and care about the data privacy problem?
- How can blockchain technology change that?
- What is the ultimate goal of web3 in terms of privacy?
Let’s dive deep into privacy issues.
Weaver Labs: a blockchain-software company building in the Telecoms sector
Weaver Labs is making networks more accessible by helping to diversify the supply chain and accelerate the adoption of connectivity.
The core product they are building is Cell-Stack. It’s a software product to manage telecoms infrastructure to access it as a service.
How does blockchain fit into Waver Lab’s view of the future of telecoms?
Maria of Weaver Labs notices that according to the GSMA data, there will be 8 billion devices connected to the Internet by next year. 5.7 billion of these will be unique users of the network. That’s a lot, and the numbers will be increasing faster and faster every year with smart cities and many other industries getting into using connectivity.
So it’s natural to see that there was a point when the market could not cope with the demand by using the commercial models that existed in the telecom industry.
There is a need to diversify the sources of investment because you don’t want to put the control of all of your network into just a single player and then also because we need to diversify the sources of investment. So there is a need to decentralise the space.
At Weaverlabs, we tried to solve a supply chain problem in the telecom industry, and essentially what we do is create a peer-to-peer layer that sits on top of telecoms infrastructure and it aggregates it all links it and it opens it up to be consumed as a service.
Our main goal at Weaverlabs is to diversify the supply chain, accelerate the adoption of connectivity, and look at having more owners of the Internet than just a few big companies.
Joincircle — a social ecosystem for Web3.
At Joincircle, they are building the ultimate social ecosystem for the web3 communities. This ecosystem will enable a high-quality and safe place to communicate and engage in web3.
Eshan, the co-founder of Joincircle highlighted that getting into web3 is still challenging for an average internet user since the starting point is Twitter or Discord which are basically web2 platforms. Currently, there are no dedicated web3-native platforms where users could communicate.
As more people got into the system, it just became more difficult to keep in touch with people because it became very clear that things like Discord are not meant to host web 3 users, says Eshan. Now we can carry our own assets within our wallets and there is a need for security services to keep our digital identity and our assets private.
In Discord, you’re using a third-party app to verify those assets to be part of these social circles, and that’s essentially what Joincircle wants to change.
We wanted to build something that was native and that was secure in a way where you’re not making an ancillary product by allowing people to read your assets but making it directly into the platform like a web3-native platform.
That’s the goal with Circle and right now we’re building it.
Tapx — Making Web3 Accessible
Tapx started as Tapmydata in 2018 and our ultimate goal was to help users reclaim their data from big companies and then own and control it — says Tom.
We’ve managed to send over 20,000 subject access requests in the space for about 18 months and we got on the radar of a lot of companies. But unfortunately, due to regulations, things didn’t quite go the way we wanted with that, and not enough people actually cared about reclaiming their data.
So we pivoted to Tapx and now we’re looking to promote a more open and accessible web and help other organisations and partners expose their projects to the world. And doing that with a keen privacy focus.
How bringing users on a blockchain can help to deal with privacy issues?
Here are a few thoughts on that topic from our speakers:
- Maria of Weaver Labs believes that a great moment to be innovating in security in telecoms because it has come so important for the government and businesses that we’re having a great time doing it.
Because everything now it’s based on software, it’s using open APIs and we want to open up the supply chain, not just Weaver Labs, but the entire telecom industry opens up its opening up the supply chain. We need to secure our networks because all of our critical data goes through them. So security interest from the government has given us the opportunity to play around with concepts such as the peer-to-peer network Blockchain Zero Trust, which is great.
- Eshan of Joincirle, highlighted that security by design can help to build a trust layer in web3 and will also improve the user experience. Once the project creates this ultimate secure environment, more people would choose you for a better experience.
- Tom noticed that the privacy element is probably one of the few things that have changed the slowest over time in terms of the fact that the majority of organisations are still doing the same thing that they were doing 20 years ago, albeit we now have terms like data lakes and things like that were probably less on people’s horizons back then.
However I think the blockchain aspect of it is really the first sort of shining light. The potential for that to actually change and things like verifiable claims really provides an opportunity for the identification of people without this method you’ve got at the moment, which is just basically splurging data everywhere — Tom Holder, Tapx.
- The blockchain is in its infancy of starting to provide a framework to be able to hold onto your data and prove that you are who you say you are without actually having to give that data over and that’s really exciting.
Does the general public knows and cares about the data privacy problem?
Unfortunately, not enough people care enough about data privacy nowadays. There’s a lot of news about data issues and data leaks, but generally, 99% don’t fully understand the extent of the data problem.
One of the main reasons for that is the lack of interest. People don’t really care about it and that makes the network effect issues even more challenging for those projects who try to raise awareness of this problem.
Tom says, that usually, people don’t even pay attention when they share their data online because we’re basically exchanging it into goods and services. For example, ordering something online. It seems like giving our private information for a product or service we want is a reasonable exchange for us.
And these transactions happen 10,000 times a year for everybody, so we don’t even see it happening.
Maria agrees that security and privacy are often neglected. And when we are building technology, especially in the context of networks, which is the pipes of anything else that we can think of, maintaining privacy and security should be a starting point for building the technology.
From the network perspective, the problem that I see is that we try and build things fast for usability and we don’t think about security by design. So the software elements that run our 5G-4G networks are not secure and they present so many vulnerabilities. We work on trusted domains and you can only send data from one network to another across different trusted domains if there is a kind of human-level agreement, which is not secure.
One of the things that can help to deal with that problem is regulation, believes Maria. Here’s why:
- Regulation brings the security by design narrative to the table and makes it imperative for those softwares to be built with security in mind.
- In this case, if you want to run a service on top of a network and a web3 application, you’re inheriting the security of all of those bits and pieces that run the network on, so it’s just not good to build networks that are not secure by design for the entire economy.
- Regulation brings a level of transparency and helps to better understand and evaluate the level of security of the products.
Eshan agrees that security should be one of the basic layers of every web3 project. But there’s another problem that comes with it.
When you build from Ground Zero, especially young start-ups with fewer people, you always face scalability issues because you know you’re working with a limited number of funds and that’s the other thing that most web3 startups should keep in mind.
How can we as an industry overcome the privacy problem and bring the other 99.9% of Internet users into the web3 space?
- People would get more comfortable as the user base grows and we see more mainstream businesses adopting the use of web3 tools. 5–10 years ago, people didn’t want to put their credit card number on a website. Now we’ll do that. So there is a process of trusting the new technology that will come with time.
- Since have changed in terms of security innovation. We now got 2FA and stuff like that. And if you look at 2FA actually, the vast majority of people still probably haven’t implemented it, they have come up with a strong password and even that’s a bit of a leap for some people.
So when you look at the blockchain space, I think it’s very similar in terms of a lot of the innovation is going to come around better UI, better education, and a larger bulk of people actually understand it — Tom.
- Privacy is a big problem in web3 as well. People get scammed every day, sometimes even losing all their networth.
I think it leaves a really bad taste in people’s mouths and they’re probably just not likely to ever come back again. They think that the space is just filled with scams and it’s really hard to keep your assets safe. Maintaining data security can help to keep those users in web3— Eshan.
Do we have right our own data on our devices and then potentially do things with ourselves?
It depends on how this data is used, says Maria. Because there are positive use cases of the data that is generated by our devices.
So for example, Weaver Labs are working on a project in Manchester where they use a network to control the traffic lights. The data that they gather is sent to the cloud to run an AI algorithm to enforce a policy in the traffic lights of the city system. It provides the ability to do cross-sector innovation and data, enriches cities, and helps live in better places.
However, Maria agrees that it is wrong to have hyper scalers owning and controlling 90% of the Internet traffic and hosting all of our data.
Tom highlights that blockchain gives opportunity and capability for people to take greater ownership of their data. The big data monopolists are meeting unfriendly regulations and their data policies start to break down.
I don’t think that we’ll be able to take back our data from these companies but I do think that you will get more granular control over the data that’s important to you at that moment in time and understand better with who that data sits in the future for sure — Tom.
What is the ultimate goal of web3 in terms of privacy?
- Web3 and decentralisation in general what it’s given the power to the individual like human beings or organisation to contribute something and for a greater good.
- The new technology can open up a lot of possibilities for innovation and eventually what the Community wants will win.
- The end goal in web3 in general is to own your entire value chain. There’s really no middle man controlling anything.
- If you own and control everything then you can monetise your own way and there’s no central party that all-seeing hand that is taking over control or anything.
- In terms of connectivity and in terms of building the networks of the future and building the cities where people want to live.
With decentralisation we can provide incentives for others. Maybe local authorities or regional authorities to go and build those networks and use you know the whole web3 technology to knit together all of these components. So essentially the community wins and I think that is the ultimate goal that I think that the telecom industry and basically every web3 project needs to be looking for — Maria.
We’ve had a really fascinating discussion here and thanks to all of our speakers for really bringing a fascinating conversation about the privacy problems that have existed for a long time and the current situation and the optimism that we have for the future.