With endorsements or contributions from Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has emerged as something of a favorite of the Silicon Valley set.
Yet several of his policies, if enacted, could impact the tech industry's business model.
In his Data as a Property Right policy, which was posted on his campaign website earlier this year, Yang argues that some companies are making money off of customer data without properly protecting it or informing users about how it's used. He proposes that individuals be given seven rights regarding data, including the right to know what data is being collected on you and the right to port your data to a different platform.
Though Yang's proposal might make data-hoarders like Facebook and Google groan—the latter was hit with a €50 million fine for a data privacy violation in January and was recently accused of further violations—blockchain startups have a head start on implementing them.
Self-sovereign identity, like "collusion,” is a term many people use but few fully understand. The Sovrin Network, which seeks to use blockchain technology to enable web-based self-sovereign identity globally, defines it as "the digital movement that recognizes an individual should own and control their identity without the intervening administrative authorities."
In other words, blockchain can not only enable decentralized money, it can also facilitate a decentralized online identity in which credentials and personal data are shared and verified securely.
Phil Windley, chair of the Sovrin Foundation, which governs the Sovrin Network, told Decrypt that the current online model is one in which "we are inside the administrative system of another party" whenever we log on to a website. The rights Yang enumerated, on the other hand, read similarly to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect in 2018. They represent an improvement, said Windley.
He urged, however, that people be real about data ownership, because self-sovereign identity isn’t actually a solo endeavor. Instead, it lays the ground rules for a peer relationship. "Almost no data is generated just by an individual. Rather, data is usually generated by multiple parties as part of a process," Windley said.
Moreover, people trade security for convenience constantly, for instance, signing in with Google to a third-party website without knowing how their login and profile information is being used.
Any new regulations, then, necessitate a reorientation of how people view their data and their relationship with companies.
It's a two-way conversation, but Yang's proposal may be a good way to start it.