How Decentralized Tech Can End the Privacy Crisis in 2020

This post is part of CoinDesk’s 2019 Year in Review, a collection of 100 op-eds, interviews and takes on the state of blockchain and the world. Tor Bair is the Head of Growth for Enigma, an open-source, decentralized protocol for secure computation that allows smart contracts to use private, encrypted data as inputs.

After a dizzying year for our industry – one full of twists, turns, and tumult – it’s time to get our bearings and see where we stand. Has the acceptance and adoption of blockchains and digital currencies leapt forward, or have we taken a giant step back? Have we reached a new level of technological and cultural understanding, or are we more confused than ever? Is our industry finally overcoming critical technical challenges, or are we at risk of completely losing our way?

If you’re feeling like the pace of news in 2019 has given you whiplash, you’re not alone. Depending on who you are and what you believe, the same developments might lead you to very different conclusions. Is a project like Facebook’s Libra a massive validation of the value of its underlying technologies, or is it an alarm bell that is still ringing in regulators’ ears? As central banks embrace development of their own digital currencies, does that mean permissionless alternatives are gaining relevance or facing extinction?

If we’re going to find answers, we need to reorient the conversation – and ourselves. With all these swirling questions, there’s only one that truly matters: are we closer to solving real problems for real people? Or are we only making things worse?

To help us answer this, we need to focus on one problem at a time. I want to focus on perhaps the largest problem facing our world: the privacy crisis.

At first, the relationship between privacy, decentralization, and digital currencies may be unclear. But as you will see, these ideas are deeply linked in relation to our current global economic model of surveillance capitalism. We are standing at a…

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