19 Mar

Decentralizing Privacy: Using Blockchain to Protect Personal Data

Decentralizing Privacy: Using Blockchain to Protect Personal Data

Guy Zyskind, Oz Nathan, Alex ’Sandy’ Pentland


The recent increase in reported incidents of surveil- lance and security breaches compromising users’ privacy call into question the current model, in which third-parties collect and con- trol massive amounts of personal data. Bitcoin has demonstrated in the financial space that trusted, auditable computing is possible using a decentralized network of peers accompanied by a public ledger. In this paper, we describe a decentralized personal data management system that ensures users own and control their data. We implement a protocol that turns a blockchain into an automated access-control manager that does not require trust in a third party. Unlike Bitcoin, transactions in our system are not strictly financial – they are used to carry instructions, such as storing, querying and sharing data. Finally, we discuss possible future extensions to blockchains that could harness them into a well-rounded solution for trusted computing problems in society.

Keywords—blockchain; privacy; bitcoin; personal data

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