Web 3.0- A Decentralized Future?

By: John Meyer
In today’s online environment we are faced with rapid innovation and creation, especially when referring to data integration, collection, and utilization. Since its inception the internet has grown to gargantuan size boasting an incredible 4.4 billion active users worldwide.[1] This tremendous influx of users has changed the very structure of the internet. The idea of read-only web pages has long since passed to now feature highly interactive user created content.[2] This era of user created content taking the forefront of internet activity is known as Web 2.0, and is the current iteration of internet we exist in.[3]
As user content and input began to generate value it became important for corporations to collect and utilize user data.  This data, such as web behavior, device information, and personal information is collected by corporations, and are often stored in “centralized” data warehouses[4] through the use of cookies, and other tracking methods.[5] A centralized data warehouse is a collection of information in a single location that serves the needs of multiple entities, usually businesses, allowing for access from multiple locations at fast speeds.[6]
Concerns are raised, however, regarding the vulnerability of centralized data stores to breaches in privacy. If personal data stores serving multiple large corporations are in one location, then one breach could mean compromised personal data of thousands of individuals. As the United States does not have a single cohesive statute governing the use of commercial user data, but rather a patchwork of laws such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act[7], the Federal Trade Commission Act[8], or privacy torts, remedies are limited and regulations are loose.[9] Faced with privacy issues and vulnerability of individual data, Web 3.0 seeks to ameliorate some of these concerns.
While Web 2.0 revolved around the collection and centralization of user data, Web 3.0 seeks to do away with the idea of centralized data by integrating both AI and user input coupled with Blockchain technology to access and utilize data across multiple platforms to deepen and enhance web experiences while maintaining control over one’s own data.[10] By melding AI and user input, the integrated AI learns a user’s “context” and creates relevant searches and experiences for the user by gathering and organizing user data across devices.[11] What is more enticing about Web 3.0 however, is the ability to control that data.
Through Blockchain technology, a method of encryption wherein users verify and maintain a ledger via encrypted public addresses that tracks transactions, individuals do not have to surrender their data to corporations without first giving them the “key” to their encrypted address.[12] Without the “key” to the user’s information, data giants are hard pressed to gather user information without consent as the encryption would prevent traditional methods of data collection.[13] Thus, the individual maintains the power to divulge their information when they please rather than being at the mercy of other’s tracking devices. By storing data in individuals and multiple entities rather than centralized data warehouses, data is thereby dispersed and decentralized throughout the web.
While these components sound enticing, Web 3.0 is still in it’s infancy, and sets forth difficult and concerning issues. Blockchain technology has been criticized as a method to sidestep financial regulations through anonymous transactions.[14] Additionally, though Web 3.0 provides a method for greater privacy, the question of data breach remedies still remains. Nations worldwide have recently taken steps to protect user data through legislative enforcement. Such notable regulations as the European Union’s recently enacted GDPR, place consent requirement from users to corporations before allowing the data to be collected while failing to comply can result in up to a twenty million Euro fine.[15] However, in the United States, data mining laws remain sparse. In an age of ever mounting importance on user data and the value it creates, it is extremely important that individuals be able to take control of their own individual information and value. While Web 3.0 provides a novel response to an important issue, it is still a long way off, and still leaves sizable gaps in the realms of privacy breach enforcement, and accountability.
  1. Global Digital Population as of July 2018, Statista (Jul., 2018), https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/.
  2. Brian Getting, Basic Definitions: Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Practical Ecommerce (April 18, 2007), https://www.practicalecommerce.com/Basic-Definitions-Web-1-0-Web-2-0-Web-3-0.
  3. See Id.
  4. Indika, Difference Between Distributed Database and Centralized Database, Difference Between (May 29, 2011), https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-distributed-database-and-vs-centralized-database/.
  5. How Do Data Companies Get Our Data?, Privacy International (May 25, 2018), https://privacyinternational.org/feature/2048/how-do-data-companies-get-our-data.
  6. Centralized Data Warehouse, Geek Interview (Dec. 18, 2007), http://www.learn.geekinterview.com/data-warehouse/data-types/centralized-data-warehouse.html.
  7. Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2704, 2707 (2018).
  8. Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a) (2018).
  9. John Yates, Privacy and Data Mining on the Internet, Morris, Manning, and Martin, LLP., https://www.mmmlaw.com/media/privacy-data-mining-on-the-internet/ (last visited Sept. 6, 2018).
  10. Kumar Sharma, How is Blockchain Verifiable by Public and Yet Anonymous?, Blockchain Council (Jul. 10, 2018), https://www.blockchain-council.org/blockchain/how-is-blockchain-verifiable-by-public-and-yet-anonymous/.  
  11. See All Innovated Usage of Blockchain in Web 3.0 Applications, CIS (Feb. 9, 2018), https://www.cisin.com/coffee-break/technology/all-innovative-usage-of-blockchain-in-web-3-0-applications.html.
  12. What is Blockchain Technology? A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners, Block Geeks (Sept. 13, 2018) https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/.
  13. See Sharma, supra note 10.
  14. See William Magnuson, How Should Financial Regulators Handle the Bitcoin Era, Harvard Law School (Apr. 19, 2018), https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2018/04/19/how-should-financial-regulators-handle-the-bitcoin-era/.
  15. Commission Regulation 2016/679 of Apr. 17, 2016, On the Protection of Natural Persons With Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data, and Repealing Directive 95/46/EC, 2016 O.J. (L 119/1) 83.

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