An anonymous person or a group of persons with the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” created blockchain – a technology that is now considered the backbone of an internet that distributes digital currency. Similar to the internet, blockchain can be used by anyone even if no one knows how it works; it also offers benefits and disadvantages which users from Reddit’s /r/CryptoCurrency forum and blockgeeks’ comments section are debating over. Some have explicitly expressed their fears and concerns, three of which are listed below.
1. Should you trust a technology created by someone “nobody-know-who-the-hell-he-is ?”
This question was asked by user “fisa al” in blockgeeks’ comment section. “Fisa al’s” issue is accountability. He added, “If there is a havoc..nobody can be blamed.” Ironically, despite “fisa al’s” valid point, the technology that governs blockchain stresses the value of accountability.
According to TEDx speaker Ian Khan, thanks to blockchain there will be “No more missed transactions, human or machine errors, or even an exchange that was not done with the consent of the parties involved. Above anything else..Blockchain helps to guarantee the validity of a transaction by recording it not only on a main register but a connected distributed system of registers, all of which are connected through a secure validation mechanism.”
Blockchain promises transparency. The system’s self-auditing ability allows it to verify and reconcile transactions in consistent time intervals. Why then should it be feared? The following is a list of issues crypto enthusiasts see once blockchain is adapted into the mainstream.
2. Blockchain “will be the de facto tool to literally watch and record every step any person makes”
Redditor “cryptothrice” realized blockchain’s potential to be used illicitly to observe and record everyone’s movement and online transactions. From handing over money to someone online, watching a video, or even by changing a lightbulb’s color via an IOT chain, blockchain seems to ensure that what anyone does will be seen on the ledger. Is this the kind of transparency enthusiasts have been hoping for?
In the absence of anonymity, everyone will know what anyone is doing. “People will not be able to get away with anything” cites cryptothrice. As an example, cryptothrice offered the possibility of someone posting an anti-establishment statement online – a data that will perennially be recorded and evidently seen on the blockchain. The transparency blockchain offers ensures that the individual’s identity will be known – either via RFID chips, etc. Since blockchain allows a large network to be connected to each other, the consequences of declaring an anti-establishment statement would have repercussions which could disallow access to certain goods or services. The commenter references China’s current system of social control where citizens’ behaviour are monitored and any violations they incur – turnstile violations, jaywalking, etc. – automatically blacklists them from accessing loans or jobs, among others. China calls it the “personal credit social system” – where one incurs points for good behaviour, and earns demerits for bad ones.
Another Redditor, “Tokamorus”, offered a contrasting opinion and claims that any approach a government would take will only be met by people finding a way to circumvent it. The user added, “..a blatant push by government would only prompt everyone to organize.”
Author William Mougayar, who wrote the book The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology (2016), offered a reason why user “cryptothrice’s” fear is unfounde. Mougayar wrote: “Online identity and reputation will be decentralized. We will own the data that belongs to us.” Blockchain’s ability to store information across its vast network removes the risk of any data to be held in one place thereby eliminating any vulnerabilities potential hackers could exploit.
3. Blockchain could allow data to be changed or deleted
Andrew Brown, a commenter in Blockgeeks’ article on blockchain, expressed his concern on the data available on the blockchain system. He explained that blockchain’s original intent was to transfer specific quantities of bitcoin to a specific address. Blockchain is not supposed to be a database. Algorithms could possibly allow deletions or changes in the system.
However, a Kwori article on blockchain explained that data stored in blockchains “can’t be changed once..created” due to “blocks subsequent to the one containing the information will make reference backwards in the chain and alterations, including deletions, will result in a complete fork.”However, options are available specifically when there is false data present. Data encrypted on a blockchain can have its private keys deleted thereby disallowing such information to be accessible.