The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have ramifications far beyond data protection, according to the founder of web content management system Zesty.io.
Randy Apuzzo says that the GDPR’s emphasis on transparency could lead to a rise in blockchain-based content creation. A blockchain is a list of encrypted records that updates with changes and additions. It’s most commonly associated with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which uses the system to track online payments, but Apuzzo believes it could be applied to make content creators more accountable for their work.
“Given its potential, and given the widespread concern about ‘fake news’, one could easily see a scenario in which blockchain was employed to safeguard the legitimacy of information on the internet worldwide,” Apuzzo wrote in an article for Martech.
How would it work?
Apuzzo proposes a system containing “a decentralized public ledger of every change, down to a single comma, that is made to published content – be it a website, an article, a blog post or countless other forms of material.
“Each piece of content published as part of a blockchain receives a unique hash (or one-of-a-kind ID comprised of numbers and characters), time-stamped with authorship verified, that could be tied to related content. It creates a sort of master ledger of digital content that can’t be gamed or compromised.”
Apuzzo notes that this practice already occurs in heavily regulated industries such as financial services and pharmaceuticals, but he predicts that, as the GDPR gains traction, there will be a greater interest in transparency across all sectors. This echoes the thoughts of Giovanni Butarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, who recently published a report claiming that individuals have developed a “crisis of confidence” over the way organisations collect and use information.
Butarelli’s concern revolved around data harvesting, in which a script extracts data from websites and allows organisations to spread ‘fake news’ and tailor what people see online.
But whereas Apuzzo believes that the need for transparency will drive changes to the way organisations produce content, Butarelli says this is only part of the solution. He claims that the requirements of ePrivacy rules and the GDPR will be enough to regain individuals’ trust.
Apuzzo does acknowledge that, for blockchain-based content creation to become standard practice, it will need to be driven by regulation. Without a regulatory requirement, it’s unlikely that organisations will trade the benefits of transparency for the cost of implementing a blockchain-based system, as the only incentive they currently have is to demonstrate their commitment to transparency.
The short-term future for Apuzzo’s prediction seems ambitious, given how many organisations are struggling to meet the immediate requirements presented by the GDPR. The Regulation takes effect on 25 May 2018, and with organisations worldwide reporting that they won’t be compliant by the deadline, there is a pressing need for data protection experts.
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