SINGAPORE – Have you ever wondered what happens to the data generated about you based on your online activities?
The answer can be found in an epiphany from the documentary The Social Dilemma: “If you don’t pay for the product, then you are the product”. But a new version of the Internet, dubbed Web 3, promises change, and perhaps for the better.
The web we know now has come a long way. In the 1990s, the web consisted mostly of content-providing organizations, with limited interactivity.
In 1999, Web 2.0 was coined to describe the emergence of websites and applications characterized by user-generated content. User-generated content includes the social bookmarking web service del.icio.us, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the video streaming site YouTube, and social networks such as Facebook and Instagram.
The growing amount of user data generated online has led to growing privacy concerns. Governments and legislators around the world have responded to these concerns in recent years.
In January 2020, the Norwegian Consumer Council published findings on how various apps collect, use and share sensitive information about their users, such as locations, dating choices, sexual orientation, ethnicity and political beliefs.
More recently, in January of this year, several states in the United States filed lawsuits against Google for allegedly engaging in deceptive location data collection practices. The lawsuit is still ongoing, but the company has responded that the allegations are based on an outdated understanding of their characteristics.
How did we get there ? An often-heard answer is: We agreed to the terms of service when we downloaded an app or signed up for a web service. But beyond user consent, it also reflects the principles of Web 2.0 – that of collaboration and sharing.
The principles governing the next version of the Internet, known as Web 3, could offer a way to solve some of the problems plaguing users today.
Web 3 involves applications based on a new model of user ownership and control of data. It is built on blockchain, a transparent ledger on a distributed network where users have more control over how their data is collected and monetized.
Web 3 allows individuals to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to sell their works on online marketplaces like OpenSea, or trade cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin using smart contracts which are self-executing computer programs.
Bitcoin trading is considered an early form of Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), a member-owned community with no centralized leadership.
The emergence of DAOs is significant because it opens the possibility of directly benefiting the community through the transparency and decentralized cooperation of all its members.
There are many types of DAOs, reflecting the varied interests of different groups. You may have heard of Pleasr, a Twitter DAO focused on buying “culturally significant” NFTs and supporting charitable causes. Other DAOs focus on social media, such as Friends with Benefits.
There are a few downsides.