Digital privacy has recently become a contentious topic across Europe and the United States. Major companies like Apple have introduced features to prevent data harvesting, and in 2022, roughly half of U.S. state legislatures sought to pass comprehensive data privacy laws to compensate for the lack of clear federal protections. While the tide appears to be turning in the direction of freedom and increased digital rights, there are still a multitude of problems on the horizon.
For the average user, the future of data harvesting is certainly an ominous one – many of the world’s largest companies have business models dedicated to connecting the dots of our digital activity.
Our personal browsing decisions tell others an elaborate story about who we are and what we do. This often goes far beyond marketing and research, into insidious practices which compromise our identities and freedom.
Today’s data collection is broad and sweeping, and internet users rarely get to decide what information these entities obtain.
Digital privacy becomes particularly significant when we consider what happens when we lose it. Ask yourself: how many pieces of personal information are you comfortable sharing with complete strangers?
Maybe you wouldn’t mind sharing your name, address, or favorite restaurant, but what about your financial information or medical records? Regardless of the degree to which you’re comfortable revealing these private details, the important option missing from today’s online interaction is choice over exactly what information is revealed.
The Metadata Problem
Nearly every time we go online, DNS servers, telecom companies, internet service providers, content delivery networks, and other companies all see and store our metadata.
Unlike the encrypted data we often send to one another, metadata is essentially data about data. Common metadata includes IP addresses, how much data was sent, when the data was created, and other very revelatory information. Our metadata can be, and often is, used to create an alarmingly accurate picture of who we are.
Even worse, metadata is often interpreted without the context of the data it relates to. A common response to data concerns is “I don’t care if people know what I do online – I’ve got nothing to hide!”
But the people drawing conclusions from metadata don’t get to see the ordinary things you do online: they see the metadata, and are free to draw the most nefarious conclusions about what activity it represents.
How HOPR solves this problem
One company working to overcome this problem is HOPR, a Swiss start-up whose metadata anonymization functionality has use cases with potential applications in diverse sectors like energy markets, medical data, and decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges.
In fact cryptocurrency is at the heart of the HOPR protocol. The HOPR token is used to reward people who run the nodes which support the HOPR network.
This technology offers a proof of relay mechanism that protects users from dishonest activity and provides node runners with the economic incentive to sustainably run a global privacy network.
The narrative surrounding data privacy has often been framed as individual versus institution in an uncertain future.
The reality is that many companies like HOPR are building the infrastructure to ensure that individuals are given the freedom to choose exactly how much of their personal data belongs to them while ensuring that companies and institutions can securely receive the data they need to operate – provided this is what their users want.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.
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