Concerns around data privacy are rising, and blockchain is the solution

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Today’s consumers are willing to trade their data for personalization but have fast-growing concerns about data privacy. In a survey from a digital security and credential issuance company Entrust, only 21% of the respondents trust established global brands to keep their personal information secure.

As data privacy pressure on Big Tech increases, these companies are starting to make significant investments in security solutions.

Regulations around the world are evolving rapidly

Last year, as more and more people spent time at home due to COVID-19 lockdowns, internet usage went up. And as usage has gone up, so too has consumer awareness of how data could be used or misused. For example, a recent survey from Startpage, a privacy-focused search engine company, found that 62% of Americans have become more aware of how their data is used online, including ad targeting based on their browsing history and location.

Related: The data economy is a dystopian nightmare

With growing concern over how companies collect data, new laws are evolving rapidly in the United States and abroad to address these concerns. In 2016, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation. Two years later, California signed into law the California Consumer Privacy Act, the most robust state-level privacy legislation in history. Since then, Virginia is the only other U.S. state that has successfully passed a comprehensive bill, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act.

With more states looking to add consumer privacy protection laws, it’s clear that user opinions and policies are shifting. That said, data privacy and how it’s protected is incredibly complex, and these toothless bills could have the opposite effect — giving consumers the confidence that their data is protected when, in fact, it often is not.

Related: DPN vs. VPN: The dawn of decentralized web privacy

Companies will invest in privacy and security technology

When 2020 began, millions of people moved their lives online — went to school remotely and attended virtual happy hours — exposing more personal data to a barely regulated internet. Not only did people integrate more data collection into their daily lives, but they were also led to believe that location tracking could have public health benefits.

Thanks to COVID-19, the depth of our data-sharing deficiencies have been exposed. As we move forward, everyone must raise awareness and promote the best practices in privacy and data protection.

Related: We don’t need immunity passports, we need verifiable credentials

Is a solution possible?

As consumer expectations continue to drive privacy scrutiny, there is an opportunity to lead the pack in this evolving area, but with new entrants primed to enter the market, that opportunity will not last very long. According to Crunchbase, investors pumped $7.8 billion into cybersecurity firms last year, a 22% increase from 2019 to 2020, and this year the number is even higher after just six months, surpassing the $9 billion mark.

With data ownership top-of-mind, let’s take a look at the startups paving the way for a post-pandemic world. From personal data scrubbing to business-focused software meant to help companies comply with the law, these five startups are helping users to take back control and ownership.

OpenMined is an open-source community, and the company sees its goal in making the world more privacy-preserving by lowering the barrier to entry to private AI technologies. Its mission is to create an accessible ecosystem of privacy tools and education, which it does by extending popular libraries like PyTorch with advanced techniques in cryptography and differential privacy. The company claims that through its services, people and organizations can host private data sets, allowing data scientists to train or query data they “cannot see.” The data owners retain complete control — data is never copied, moved or shared.

Anjuna provides hardware-grade protection for data, applications and workloads, virtually eliminating data insecurity. According to the team, it ensures that applications operate independently of their infrastructure, simplifying operations while locking down data security. The software enables IT to “lift and shift” applications and data into the hardware-encrypted confines of a secure enclave, protecting them from malicious software, insiders and bad actors.

Fortanix secures sensitive data across public, hybrid, multi-cloud and private cloud environments, enabling customers to operate even the most sensitive applications in any environment. Fortanix states that organizations gain the freedom to accelerate their digital transformation, combine and analyze private data, and deliver secure applications that protect the privacy of the people they serve.

Duality Technologies addresses the rapidly growing need of enterprises across regulated industries to collaborate on sensitive data. According to the company, the platform enables secure analysis of encrypted data, deriving insights from sensitive data without exposing the data itself. Its technology protects valuable analytics models from exposure to external collaboration parties during computations. The Duality SecurePlus states that the platform makes it possible for enterprises to leverage advanced cryptographic methods for real-world data collaborations while complying with data privacy regulations and protecting their IP.

Leap Year builds technology to address these issues in a scalable, rigorous, future-proof way. As per the company’s statements, some of the largest enterprises in the world can break down data silos, form data partnerships and accelerate the adoption of machine learning, all with mathematically proven privacy protection.

Related: No more pushes and pushbacks: Digital ID solves the privacy dilemma

The need for Web 3.0

Looking back, the societal changes we’ve experienced in the last year are important flashpoints that highlight huge flaws in the way the internet exists today, how data privacy laws are created and the hidden ways Big Tech exploits our data.

During the pandemic, companies like Google, Facebook, Zoom and Amazon have profited big time. At the loss of consumer privacy and choice, Big Tech makes its money through monetizing user data. While yes, we do use these things every day, these platforms on Web 2.0 are a breeding ground for exploitation, hacks and breeches.

Related: Striking a chord: DeFi’s domino effect on NFTs and Web 3.0 adoption

As we adapt to a new world, blockchain will inevitably play a role in a decentralized future. Are you ready for the Web 3.0 revolution?

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Anne Fauvre-Willis is the chief operating officer of Oasis Labs and was an earlier contributor to the Oasis Network, a privacy-enabled blockchain platform for open finance and a responsible data economy. Before Oasis Labs, Anne had roles as a product manager/product marketing manager for the iPhone at Apple. She also worked for former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Albright Stonebridge Group. Anne has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Georgetown University.