From liberation to surveillance: How Web3’s transparency fuels control

From liberation to surveillance: How Web3's transparency fuels control


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  • Blockchain transparency, once seen as a feature, is now a privacy bug in Web3.
  • Marketers exploit on-chain data, including sensitive financial info, for insights and ads.
  • Without solving this transparency issue, Web3 won’t go mainstream.

Web3’s journey from a beacon of liberation to a potential instrument of surveillance marks a twist in the digital narrative that many did not foresee. In the end, it comes down to how transparent blockchain technology is by nature. At first, this transparency was praised as an advantage, but now it’s a problem because it lets everyone see users’ most private financial information. This has led to a discussion about whether the freedom that comes with decentralization is even needed to make sure that on-chain transactions are safe.

The past few years have seen the rise of numerous blockchain marketing tools. These innovations enable marketers and salespeople to tap into the stream of on-chain data, offering insights into user behavior and facilitating targeted advertising. Unlike before, the analysis now extends beyond mere behavioral data to include individuals’ most confidential financial information. The consensus is growing that without addressing this transparency dilemma, Web3’s mainstream adoption remains an elusive goal.

Blockchain and Web3 emerged as a sanctuary from the centralized control over data, with transparency ensuring that centralized entities could not monopolize personal information. However, the explosion of interest in Web3 and NFTs in 2020 shifted perceptions, framing the unrestricted access to data as a significant improvement over traditional data harvesting by large corporations. Despite the optimistic view that transparency could enable users to capitalize on their data, the reality is that open access does not equate to control or beneficial ownership over one’s information.

Indeed, the transparent and unbridled flow of data within Web3 has not prevented its appropriation. Various entities have leveraged the availability of this data to conduct sophisticated analyses of on-chain behavior, turning a profit by elucidating the habits of Web3 participants. This influx of data, stemming from countless transactions and wallet activities, has become a treasure trove for those with the acumen to interpret it. Consequently, the practices of profiling and targeted advertising, once confined to the realm of Web2, have seamlessly transitioned into the Web3 ecosystem.

Platforms such as Nansen and Addressable exemplify this trend, offering services that compile data on transactions and asset ownership. This information is then used to dissect consumer behavior, identify prevailing trends, and craft detailed customer profiles for targeted marketing campaigns. While privacy advocates argue for absolute privacy to safeguard users, this stance overlooks the practical necessities. Users must occasionally disclose their on-chain data for regulatory compliance or to authenticate transactions and asset holdings. A blanket approach to privacy, devoid of selective encryption, would render it impossible to verify the legitimacy of funds and their origins, leading to governmental sanctions against certain privacy-centric solutions.

Concurrently, there exists a desire among some users to publicly display certain assets, like NFTs, without exposing their entire cryptocurrency portfolio. Analyzing the holdings and transaction patterns of a group of NFT owners can yield surprisingly accurate user profiles, ripe for targeted advertising. This scenario underscores the need for a paradigm shift towards a model of data ownership, granting users unequivocal control over their data—what gets shared, with whom, and under what conditions.

Vitalik Buterin, in addressing this transparency issue, has proposed a pathway towards reconciling blockchain privacy with regulatory demands. His advocacy for a selective transparency model highlights the technological and philosophical adjustments necessary for Web3 to fulfill its original promise without compromising security.

The technology and solutions required for this transition are already within reach. What remains is for the Web3 community to embrace a new mindset, recognizing the pitfalls of unchecked transparency. The current trajectory of blockchain transparency positions Web3 on the verge of becoming the very tool of surveillance it was designed to dismantle. This growing concern is amplified as more individuals link their wallet addresses with social media profiles, unwittingly participating in a system that commodifies their blockchain activities.

Educating the Web3 community about the dangers of exposing all their data is crucial. In a decentralized world, awareness and change must originate from the grassroots level, empowering individuals to safeguard their transactions against exploitation.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Jai Hamid

Jai Hamid is a passionate writer with a keen interest in blockchain technology, the global economy, and literature. She dedicates most of her time to exploring the transformative potential of crypto and the dynamics of worldwide economic trends.

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