How we are taking back our online privacy with web 3.0


Big tech companies have an advertising monopoly on internet traffic. Thanks to cookies and trackers, they link surfing behavior and purchasing behaviour. The result is a buying machine in which the user is a data supplier and buyer. Web 3.0 has to change this relationship.

Instead of storing data in centralized databases, decentralization plays an important role in the 3.0 version of the web. Blockchain technology underlies this decentralization. Different nodes, or servers, spread around the world synchronize the encrypted data, so that multiple copies of the same data are always available.

Some data is open and available to everyone, other data is encrypted and only accessible to someone with the corresponding key. With web 3.0, data can also be stored locally and encrypted.

Users can access their own data or online identity, thanks to their own key. Users give applications, such as search engines, social media or web shops, access to certain parts of their encrypted data. This allows these online apps to provide services to the user. However, this data can only be interpreted as long as the app has access to the encrypted data.

As soon as the user denies access to an application, the connection between the two is broken. In this way, a consumer has much more control over which data is shared, but software can also work much more personally.

Semantic Web

In the days of web 2.0, when users enter a search query, they get a response. The search engine treats this query as one task. A web 3.0 version of a search engine provides much more context. In this way, consumers not only find their favorite holiday destination, but also what there is to do during their stay. This is then – of course – attuned to, for example, earlier travel behaviour.

Web 3.0 is also known as the semantic web. This version of the internet is getting much smarter through artificial intelligence and big data. More complex questions can then be answered more easily by voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa.

But if a search engine or application can predict what consumers want, don’t those companies have access to private data? That’s right. But thanks to blockchain technology, data can be stored encrypted and decentralized. This means that only the person with the correct key can unlock the data.

Based on a large amount of data, obtained from the user himself and the rest of the user base, the software can provide a personalized service by means of big data. The software interprets data and adapts the service to the preferences of the user.

Not only does Web 3.0 provide a better user experience, this version of the web is also more secure. Companies still use data to provide their service, but they no longer store this data. The data is now linked to a user’s encrypted account via encryption. In addition, the private data is no longer stored in data centers by a single company, but by a network (or blockchain) of companies, agencies and individuals.

Not only does it become much more difficult to steal someone’s personal data, a service or application can no longer be shut down by DDO attacks. Such an attack normally overloads a server with data requests, but services connected to web 3.0 do not use central servers. That makes it even more difficult for hackers, because there is no longer a ‘single point of failure’.

Web 3.0 makes online services less susceptible to DDoS attacks thanks to decentralized data storage. This data is stored encrypted and can only be accessed with the user’s key.

We are not there yet, but the foundation was laid more than a decade ago with the introduction of bitcoin. With the rise of smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, among other things, it is already possible to use decentralized services. In this way, the user retains more control over his own data, which means privacy better is guaranteed. Identity fraud will decrease as a result, while internet companies and the government will no longer have to see everything. Only the essential is shared, when the user chooses to do so.

The current state of web 3.0

Smart contracts on the ethereum blockchain are just the beginning. Developers are now working to create special blockchains specialized for certain applications. These are often so-called layer-2 blockchains, which use the security offered by, for example, ethereum or the bitcoin blockchain. Meanwhile, other services are under development, including Cosmos and Polkadot, that enable communication between the different blockchains.

It all sounds quite technical and that is the problem at the moment. The blockchain technology underlying the use of ‘the new internet’ is simply not yet user-friendly enough. Creating a wallet and dealing with public and private keys is not for everyone.

Unstoppable Domains, a company committed to the decentralization of the Internet, estimates that web 3.0 services are used by one million people every month. Think of trading crypto coins, but also games, social media, and artistic applications.

Gaining access to these services usually works by creating a wallet. Blockchain services such as Wax and Flow try to make this process as easy as possible by letting the user log in with, for example, a Facebook account or an email address. It is such steps in the user experience that should make services on web 3.0 more accessible. Some browsers, including Brave and Opera, have built-in features to create crypto wallets. These kinds of steps should make the new technology more accessible.

Each individual has their own encrypted profile, but there is nothing to stop someone from creating multiple profiles. Someone who keeps using the same ethereum wallet leaves a whole history behind. It will become possible for companies to interpret this kind of data. For example, the transactions in a cryptocurrency wallet can say something about the type of application someone uses and when it is used. American billionaire Marc Cuban has created a work of art and sold it through the online marketplace Rarible. This also allowed other people to immediately see that he was using the financial platform Aave.

Such information is not secret on the blockchain. It is therefore not for nothing that many people use multiple wallets. It’s not a bad idea to do this for every application, ensuring privacy. Instead of always logging in with the same email address or Facebook profile, users on web 3.0 always create a different wallet. These wallets can then interact with smart contracts without revealing the user’s identity.

Unfortunately, things get a bit complex here too, as an intensive user of the current web 3.0 has wallets on the Ethereum, EOS, WAX, Flow, Binance Smart Chain and Matic blockchains. A service like Metamask supports Ethereum by default, and with a little effort also Matic and Binance Smart Chain. To use WAX, EOS and Flow, other tools are needed, such as the browser extensions Scatter, Wombat or the WAX ​​Cloud Wallet.

We’ve become so accustomed to using one email address or Facebook profile that having multiple accounts and services is almost a deterrent. Perhaps this underlines the need to make access to our data more complex.

Finally

We are currently at the beginning of the next step in the evolution of the Internet. The call for privacy from consumers is growing. Web 3.0 and applications built on that technology will give users more control and therefore more responsibility.

At the moment, that technology is not ready for mass consumption, but the ideology is. It starts with the realization that big tech companies are selling private data for marketing purposes and then the thinking behind web 3.0 suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Text: Robert Hoogendoorn

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