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How Facebook, the ultimate disrupter, could be disrupted

Facebook is...

Posted: Mar 20, 2018 7:08 PM
Updated: Mar 20, 2018 7:08 PM

Facebook is under fire for allowing a Trump-affiliated firm, Cambridge Analytica, to access the private information of 50 million users. Facebook did not inform those users that their personal data was being harvested in an attempt to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

This raises many disturbing questions about Facebook. For starters, why does one platform have so much control over the personal data of billions of people?

But this is part of a much larger story. Not long ago, a handful of internet companies threatened to overturn the old order. Facebook challenged traditional media. Platforms like Uber, Netflix and Airbnb disrupted taxis, movie theaters and hotels. Now, these once-rebellious upstarts have become extremely powerful, and they know way too much about us.

People are getting tired of it. This helps explain why you keep hearing the word "blockchain." Blockchain technology, among other things, could potentially make platforms like Facebook obsolete. Many people know blockchain as the decentralized record of bitcoin (a virtual currency) transactions. It is the technology that allows digital money to circulate around the globe, without the help of banks or governments. In other words, blockchain cuts out the middleman, and this technology can be applied to many different industries.

Imagine if you, not Facebook, controlled your own data. Or if you could rent out your apartment easily and securely, without paying a cent to Airbnb. If readers could buy digital books directly from authors and filmmakers could know how many times their movies were viewed. Musicians would be able to keep better track of when their songs were played, and get paid accordingly. Taxi drivers would transact directly with passengers without Uber knowing everyone's location.

In their new book, "The Truth Machine," Michael Casey and Paul Vigna describe how companies like Uber, Airbnb and Facebook have become examples of entrenched monopoly power. Blockchain technologies "aim to do away with these intermediaries altogether, letting people forge their own trust to build social networks and business arrangements on their own terms."

In the case of Bitcoin, the blockchain is not stored on a central server, but is continuously updated by computers all over the world. Blockchain transactions are verified by many participants, known as miners, who receive Bitcoins as a reward for their work.

The blockchain is also public, and can be viewed by anyone at any time. That means that the blockchain cannot be altered without people noticing. Think of it kind of like Wikipedia, but for financial transactions.

Bitcoin was invented to be free of centralized control -- in an attempt to create a currency that was independent of the banking system. Bitcoin allows people to accumulate assets without worrying that a central bank will devalue their currency, or that their money will be confiscated by authorities.

And yes, because Bitcoin can be sent without using your real name, it can be used for criminal activity. But blockchain transactions are pseudonymous, not anonymous. You can see every Bitcoin transaction, but not the individuals making them. Because all Bitcoin transactions are recorded on the blockchain, they are still more traceable than cash.

The creation of Bitcoin inspired innovations like Ethereum, a computing network that also uses blockchain technology. People can use Ethereum to create smart contracts that are executed by algorithms, rather than human beings. These contracts are recorded on the blockchain, making them both public and immutable. Complete strangers can automatically exchange digital currency once the terms of a contract are met, eliminating the need of a trusted intermediary.

Blockchain technology records and time-stamps every transaction, making them visible for the world to see. The ability to trace the flow of digital assets could be game-changing for artists. Right now, filmmakers don't know how many times their movies are watched online, perhaps because that data is held by a company like Netflix. This opacity would be much more difficult in a blockchain world.

Blockchain also enhances data privacy. This may seem like a contradiction: How can something be both private and transparent? As Don and Alex Tapscott explain in their book, "Blockchain Revolution," people decide how much information to attach to their identity.

Because this information is stored on the blockchain, which exists everywhere, there are no "honey pots" of personal data to hack into. No single company like Facebook has access to your private information, and they can't hand that information over to a third party without your permission. Nor could companies sell your data without you receiving a penny in return. "Because you own your data, you can monetize it," the Tapscotts explain. "You share in the wealth of big data."

This may all sound too good to be true. Skepticism is warranted, as the blockchain hype is certainly excessive. In one amusing case, Long Island Iced Tea's shares soared by over 200% after adding the word "blockchain" to their name.

But the froth over blockchain reveals a real frustration with the current internet, which was supposed to be a decentralizing force. You see this frustration in the backlash against Facebook, in musicians' grief over YouTube and Spotify eating away at their income, and in the scandals over companies like Uber employing user data to track journalists.

Blockchain will not solve the world's problems, but perhaps it can deliver on some of the goals that our current internet has failed to achieve. Internet companies were supposed to put more power into the hands of individuals, but it hasn't always worked out that way. People are ready to disrupt the disrupters.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 587405

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson853851591
Mobile48932864
Madison37517533
Shelby27280257
Tuscaloosa27171465
Montgomery26172627
Baldwin25399329
Lee17224181
Calhoun15401334
Morgan15170291
Etowah14954370
Marshall13116235
Houston12077293
Elmore10915219
St. Clair10763252
Limestone10725158
Cullman10546205
Lauderdale10255254
DeKalb9508192
Talladega8949188
Walker7793288
Autauga7563114
Jackson7400117
Blount7362139
Colbert6703142
Coffee6365132
Dale5650117
Russell480243
Chilton4771117
Covington4749125
Franklin458181
Tallapoosa4519156
Escambia441383
Chambers3949125
Dallas3743163
Clarke371263
Marion3463107
Pike332579
Lawrence3263100
Winston298773
Bibb290465
Geneva283983
Marengo262467
Barbour250961
Pickens245562
Butler240872
Hale235578
Fayette227065
Henry213945
Monroe202141
Randolph201144
Cherokee199248
Washington185239
Macon170552
Crenshaw168358
Clay166259
Cleburne161345
Lamar151038
Lowndes145455
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh121332
Coosa118329
Perry110528
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
Out of AL00
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Tupelo
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Feels Like: 81°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 78° Lo: 72°
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Oxford
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Starkville
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 77° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
The heat wave that controlled our area over the past several days is now behind us. The forecast for the next week looks a bit cooler & less humid.
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