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Opinion: The good and the bad of Tim Berners-Lee's new project on data privacy

• MarketWatch

Have you read the news?

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is trying to figure out how to keep your private information from advertisers' prying eyes. He teamed up with a group of experts, including folks from MIT, and started Inrupt, a start-up whose open-source project, Solid, should achieve that lofty goal.

Solid accumulates all your data into what its creators call a "Solid POD," a repository of all the personal information you want to share with advertisers or apps, with a clear and understandable permission system. You can decide which app gets your data and which do not. Furthermore, when using apps that support Solid (say, your fitness app), you won't need to enter any data — just allow or disallow access to the Solid POD, and the app will do the rest on its own.

While this is helpful, and it's really cool that it simplifies personal-data management, the truth is that another, much more potent solution already exists. Every day this solution gains traction in the developer community, and many of its features are already being embedded in financial and other institutions worldwide. It's called distributed ledger technology (DLT).

DLT is a consensus of replicated, shared and synchronized digital data, geographically spread across multiple sites, countries or institutions. It's basically a decentralized database (a database that is not located, stored and maintained in a single location), which is hosted on multiple computers (nodes) that "talk" to each other and ensure that each copy of the database remains authentic and immutable. This provides an unprecedented level of security, something that centralized databases (like Solid POD) cannot achieve. Before I get into that, let me explain why DLT-based apps (also called "dApps") are superior to Solid:

1. dApp data is spread across hundreds, if not thousands, of different nodes (users, servers, etc.). To tamper with personal information stored on those, a hacker would need to modify data on each of those locations in the same way. This would be extremely time consuming and is therefore borderline impossible.

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