The internet-savvy generation have been exposed to the ruthlessness of the world wide web and wisdom has now been passed on to new users: the internet never forgets. Be careful what you put out there.
Whether it’s an automated web archive that scrapes reddit and backs up your post history, or a determined individual who saves questionable content you posted in a fit of whimsy. You can’t expect it to be deleted for real when you click the button that says so.
After all, do we really expect Twitter or Facebook to truly remove your data from their databases after you delete an account? Europeans should be thankful for GDPR which at least lends the illusion of privacy, but cynics might say we have no idea what goes on in their vast mega data centers.
This contributes to a culture where people are rightly cautious about what they post in the 2020s.
And we’re going to need people to follow this golden rule, because Web 3 is going to be even more iron-clad in terms of what’s available to view on the internet due to the use of blockchain.
Your Data on the Blockchain
One big upshot of Web 3 is the anonymity factor. Transactions cannot be readily traced back to an individual unless a particularly persistent actor is behind the process. Think FBI, NSA or any other entity with motive, resources and manpower to uncover the identity of a person behind a single block.
Methods may grow in sophistication however, in which case people should be prepared to only put on Web 3 what they are comfortable with being online forever. Companies in the space will be incentivized to make their platform secure, there is no doubt, but users must prepare for a future where in a hundred years their posts may become more easily traced.
A decentralized blockchain may offer a person anonymity as we understand it in today’s landscape, but chains like Bitcoin and Ethereum are pseudo anonymous. You can assign actions to the same person through various ways.
Privacy coins such as Monero allow for what they call “real anonymity” through cryptography wherein transactions cannot be linked to individual addresses. This may not stand the test of time.
Just Don’t Do Anything Illegal
As millennials have adapted to a self-regulating approach to using the internet, possibly too late to save celebrities from making ill-advised Tweets in their teenage years, we too may see Gen Z and beyond get used to Web 3 and the notion of their data being on-chain forever.
How Web 3 companies deal with this data is another matter and lawmakers will likely take a view on this as the meteoric rise of blockchain as an online staple becomes inevitable.
What we don’t want, and surely will not be allowed, is criminals using Web 3 applications to mask illicit activity and create more robust communications discussing such movements.
Law enforcement agencies will come down like a ton of bricks on platforms which grow to be a safe haven for illegality. Indeed, critics already say cryptocurrency as a whole is mostly used for money laundering and to enable large transactions of illegal substances and products.
Here lies the precipice upon which Web 3 lies: how do you give people privacy when there is an inherent permanency to data uploaded to these platforms?
The answer is to abide by that golden rule. Assume anything you upload can and will be remembered, stored and may resurface at any point. People should be doing this on the internet as we know it anyway.