2018-04-02nytimes.com

``Investors, for one, see potential. While the price of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies have plummeted this year, investment in other blockchain projects has remained strong. In the first three months of 2018, venture capitalists put half a billion dollars into 75 blockchain projects, more than double what they raised in the last quarter of 2017, according to data from Pitchbook.

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"Everything is moving toward people saying, `I want all the benefits of the internet, but I want to protect my privacy and my security,'" said [a blockchain advisor]. "The only thing I know that can reconcile those things is the blockchain."

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The novel structure allows people to set up online accounts that can securely hold valuable personal information without having to trust a single entity that can hoard, abuse or lose control of the data, as happened with Facebook and the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax.

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A range of corporations and governments are trying to apply the blockchain model -- for projects from the prosaic to the radical. Various departments of the United Nations now have blockchain experiments looking to tackle climate change, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the identity challenges faced by stateless people. Coca-Cola and the State Department recently announced a project to register foreign employees on a blockchain in an attempt to eliminate forced labor.

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"But somebody needs to ask the question: `Is it actually better? Is it measurably better?'"

Many blockchain projects opened themselves to criticism and regulatory scrutiny by raising money through so-called initial coin offerings last year. These fund-raising campaigns often brought in tens of millions of dollars in minutes with little regulatory oversight.

But new blockchain efforts continue apace, motivated in no small part by concerns about the emergence of internet giants like Facebook and YouTube.

Most of the biggest internet companies make their money from collecting personal information and using it to sell targeted advertisements. This kind of massive data collection makes them vulnerable to hackers and outsiders who want to leverage the data -- as was evident when Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to 50 million Facebook profiles. And start-ups are using the blockchain in an attempt to pry control of all that data out of their hands.



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