There is no shortage of books and articles lamenting and deploring the market power of the FAANGs and their unremunerated and potentially sinister use of personal data.
But engineers can do more to solve this problem than any verbalizer ever will, and the launch by Revolution Populi of a decentralized blockchain database with user controls whose stated ambition is to “return digital sovereignty back to the people” gives consumers a choice of whether to own, control and use their data in the marketplace or to trade it for “free” services. Future of Finance Co-founder Dominic Hobson spoke to Revolution Populi CEO Rob Rosenthal about giving consumers the choice, what they will choose and how digital entrepreneurs can create the apps to change the balance of power in data ownership and control.
Questions that are asked
- The clue to your intent is in the name of the organization: Revolution Populi. What does returning data sovereignty to the people mean in (a) philosophical and (b) practical terms?
- You have described data as the “biggest natural resource since oil,” which helps explain why large corporations want to control it. How can consumers wrest control from the likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft?
- Government anti-trust action is the default solution to the data oligopoly, but anti-trust has a mixed record. Can commercial incentives and competition do the job instead and, if so, how?
- What needs to happen (i.e. what obstacles need to be cleared and what new structures built) before your vision can be realised?
- You have issued a token (RVP). What have you achieved so far?
- Your vision raises obvious questions about the speed and scalability of blockchain technology. How have you solved them?
- Your model (in common with DeFi) provides a structural alternative to the centralized, hierarchically organised limited liability joint stock company. Do you believe we are in the early stages of the eclipse of the corporation (apologies to Michael Jensen)?
- Unlike classical revolutions, the revolution you have in mind entails mass participation. What makes you confident the masses won’t prefer free email and social networks in return for total loss of privacy?
- Is there a class of intermediary that can insulate consumers from the complexities of reclaiming data sovereignty, i.e. that collect data revenue and share data to complete transactions and fulfil other purposes – if so, what do such intermediaries look like?
- An obvious use of data sovereignty – namely digital identity – is struggling to get traction despite the fact it could save financial institutions tens of billions of dollars in KYC, AML, CFT and sanctions checks. Why is that
- The model outlined in your white paper includes a crypto-currency clearing house underwritten by an income-yielding guarantee fund belonging to users and to which consumers can novate counterparty risk. At first blush, that seems odd – clearing houses are the ultimate centralizers and concentrators of risk. What persuaded you a clearing house had a role to play?
- What are the possibilities and what are the limits to data sovereignty? What will an economy in which people enjoy data sovereignty actually look like?