Technology during dark times
Doctor Francisco Javier Estrella — CTO GeoDB
The vast majority of people are just beginning to understand distributed ledger technologies and that the main advantages are not in the technical solutions, but in the approaches that lead to them. In essence, there is one feature that stands out in systems built using these technologies, distributed trust, and this is something totally new.
Everything in a distributed ledger is immutable and accessible to all those who are part of the network. Obviously, these technologies are not silver bullets, but sometimes, they allow us to approach problems from completely new points of view.
Let’s think about it a little bit. Is it risky for our anonymity to make public some general data about us such as our gender, an approximate location where we are and how we are? In other words, is knowing that a man in Berlin claims to have a fever a risk to this man’s privacy? It’s frankly difficult.
But there is one very important nuance. It is not the same when this information is provided by a citizen using a third-party tool, which could have (either intentionally or unintentionally) unknown purposes for him, as when it is the citizen himself who provides this information to the network.
And now let’s go to the other side and think about what we would get and what we would prefer. Would we prefer to believe in the data provided by an entity, which acts as a receiver of the citizens’ information and which can filter and manipulate this information? Or would we prefer to have open access to the raw data and trust the network knowing that it could not be manipulated?
In recent weeks, many countries have begun to develop solutions for obtaining citizen’s data without their express consent, using opaque tools developed in a hurry and whose internal operations are unknown to any citizen. Who guarantees citizens that this data will only be used to deal with the current health crisis and that the data made public by countries has not been altered?
In scenarios like the present, we can and should use solutions where trust in information prevails. If we had had such tools, which provided all scientists with reliable information about what was happening from the very first moment of the current health crisis, the evolution of the current pandemic would have been radically different and perhaps, thousands of human lives could have been saved. We do not know which will or could be the optimal solution to build, but it is a path we must explore to be better prepared in the future.
Doctor Francisco Javier Estrella