Is regaining control of our personal data the true revolution of Web 3?

This is one of the great promises of Web 3: giving users power over their personal data. A paradigm shift that could shuffle the cards in favor of citizens. Imagine a world where the big players like Goal, Google, Amazon You can no longer plunder our personal data without asking our opinion, but you have to buy it from us, that would change everything. The Internet user would not only recover data sovereignty from him, but would also recover a place in the value chain. How can the long-awaited world of Web 3 allow us to regain control over our data?

First, what is meant by “Web 3”? “Web 1 is about reading. Web 2 is reading and writing, a social Web where everyone can create content. And Web 3 is about ownership, we have the ability to represent digital scarcity thanks to cryptocurrencies, something we didn’t have before,” explains Alexandre Stachtchenko, Head of Blockchain and Crypto at KPMG France*.

“Web 3 is compatible with different technologies block chain, cryptography and there is a financial part with cryptocurrencies. The blockchain represents the entire ecosystem of decentralized applications that is being developed”, specifies Sajida Zouarhi, engineer and Blockchain expert among the 40 most influential women in France in 2019 according to Forbes.

Zero knowledge, test without revealing

If the origins of the Web left aside the issue of digital data security, it is because they quickly became the black gold of the 21st century. “Those who were building this website put in place what they needed to achieve commercial success and it was mostly based on advertising, earning revenue from the information they could extract from users,” continues the blockchain specialist.

In the world of blockchains, we use virtual wallets, called wallets, in which we store our digital assets (cryptocurrencies, NFT…). “Today, I can also have identity information in my wallet. I can connect to services, participate in financial transactions, provide my KYC [Know your customer, un protocole de vérification de l’identité du client] with the identity that I will have registered in the chain and that will have been validated according to the protocols”, he describes.

Today, everyone has already connected to a site through their Facebook or Google account. The problem is that it gives a monopoly on our digital identities to these big players on the Web. The idea would be to reproduce the same principle, but instead of connecting with our Facebook or Google accounts, we connect with our crypto wallet where the data is certified and encrypted. With the zero knowledgevery fashionable term whose principle is to provide evidence without revealing information, we can prove an element of our identity without revealing our personal data.

“We can access a website because we are of legal age without ever giving our date of birth,” explains Sajida Zouarhi. Our crypto wallet stores our personal information in encrypted form. The website asks “Is this user over 18?” and the wallet confirms without revealing anything. The information is certified because it has already been authenticated upstream and is encrypted.

There are already solutions such as Anima, the protocol of the French company Synaps, which facilitates identification on the Web 3. By creating your certified identity with Anima, you create a kind of digital double that represents your identity on the Internet and avoids having to re-enter your information each time you access the sites. It’s like a pass that allows you to pass multiple times through airport security. It was verified once, we have proof of it, it is not necessary to prove the same elements of our identity again.

“Personal data is not readable, it is encrypted. I am the only one who can decrypt this information with my private key, the blockchain expert continues. And now that I put them in MetaMask [un portefeuille associé à la blockchain Ethereum, la deuxième plus importante après Bitcoin]if I am asked for proof of address, I have this information in my wallet and can choose to share it on a granular basis.”

We’re not saying we don’t share anything on Web 3 anymore. We decide what we share and for how long. Better yet, we might even consider getting paid. Web 3 players are already beginning to develop applications tailored to our current Web 2 usages.

Buy data without having access to it

Vetri app., for example, reverses the cookie paradigm. The user decides whether or not he opens his personal information to receive targeted advertising that can serve him and, in the process, is compensated. All this, without the data ever being revealed. “The Vetri app is like a safe. I never have access to the data and even if I choose to share it, no one sees this data, details Jonathan Llamas, blockchain entrepreneur and CEO of the Vetri foundation. When a user downloads the app, they are given opinion polls to build profiles and allow them to get paid for their time. Tomorrow, it will be the same for data. And it is not because we make profiles that we know who the user is”.

All information is encrypted in the form of X, Y, Z in the wallet. “Every time an advertiser searches for specific data, he defines the attributes that he is looking for. Since we don’t know what you’re looking for and we don’t know what the user has in your app, we send what they’re looking for to everyone and if a phone recognizes the X,Y,Z attributes then they get a notification. It is up to him to accept or reject it”, he describes. In this way, user data is protected. The advertiser who buys this data never has access to this data, only the attributes of the data. But what he seeks is to reach his goal. And this prevents the big players from reselling data that a user would have revealed to them, it remains encrypted nonetheless.

“Here we allow the user to charge when they receive something relevant”, concludes Jonathan Llamas. Let’s imagine that you are offered information about insurance or investment banking and that you need it. Not only does the advertiser hit the mark, but the Internet user is also paid to receive the information he may need. It’s win-win, except for the Gafa.

The inversion of the economic model of Web 2

“We’re not saying we’re not going to play anymore. We played the game, but now we have a slightly more important place in the value chain. The user was excluded from it, all the money that could be made with his personal data was made. It’s still rare that the user doesn’t touch anything and doesn’t have a voice,” says Sajida Zouarhi. And the interest of applications like Vetri is to raise awareness among the general public. The change of mentalities is the nerve of war. “The debate will not be about technicalities, but about: do we want to do it as a society?, clarifies Alexandre Stachchenko. Web 3 can be used to promote data tokenization [un processus visant à sécuriser des données grâce à la blockchain, l’utilisateur obtient un jeton qui peut être vendu, échangé ou stocké] and allow people to sell them. There is the possibility and feasibility, and then there is the real that will oppose certain frictions to this model. It is necessary to adhere to these technological solutions, that the population is mature enough to accept moving to this era of decentralization and encryption that may seem, at first glance, inaccessible.

Not to mention that the notion of personal data is very broad. The GDPR website defines it as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person” and distinguishes direct data from indirect data. “Personal data is itself very ethereal. Are we capable of materializing all this objectively? No. We do not know what personal data is objectively, there is always a rating that will be subjective. Can the token track something with certainty that it can’t by definition? Alexander Stachchenko asks. It is difficult to secure our digital traces, all browsing data, for example. If Web 3 hasn’t solved the whole problem yet, it’s moving forward with decentralized identity, and that’s already a lot. A reversal of the Web 2 economic model that is likely to severely damage Gafa’s wallets if the general public decides to take advantage of it.

* and co-founder and board member of ADAN, an association that represents the ecosystem of digital assets and works for its development in France and Europe.

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