Decentralized Storage: The Path to Ultimate Data Privacy and Ownership

Data ownership and privacy has become increasingly relevant as we navigate the digital age.

The convenience and ubiquity of centralized storage providers like OneDrive, GDrive, and Dropbox have made them the default choice for many users. However, these centralized services come with inherent risks and compromises that the development of blockchain technology could help overcome.

Centralized storage providers have simplified the user experience by offering easy-to-use applications and APIs. But this convenience comes at the cost of relinquishing control over our data. As users sign up for these services, a closer look at the terms and conditions shows that they often include data access and usage restrictions. Moreover, it’s different from the total privacy that users believe it is, with the storage provider often having the rights to specific data for marketing and advertising purposes.

The downfalls of centralized storage have been felt across recent years with cases such as the 2018 Google+ bug. In October 2018, Google showed that a bug within the system had exposed the private information of over 500,000 accounts for over three years. In the process of shutting down servers, an update in November caused another 52.5 million users to be impacted, with non-public profile data being exposed to malicious actors. December 2020 saw another breach of the Google Cloud Service, causing sensitive information from vaccine producer Pfizer to be stolen.

Not Your Keys, Not Your Data

Centralized storage providers often market themselves as highly secure and private. They do this by using what is known as at-rest encryption, meaning that the data is fully encrypted when on the provider’s disk. If an external party were to get access to the disk, the data would be fully encrypted, useless to them without the encryption keys.

But what most users need to realize is that the storage provider is the one that has access to the encryption keys for our data, allowing them to access the data on the drives freely. This reality raises concerns about the actual ownership of our data and the potential for misuse by the very companies that promise to protect it. It also raises the question, if you do not hold the keys to your data, do you truly own it any longer?

You can visualize the flow of data in a centralized scenario like this:

You log into the storage provider’s service.

The storage provider accesses the encryption key to your data.

Your data is decrypted using the storage provider’s key.

The data is sent to you.

While this process ensures that data is protected from external attackers, it does not mean it is protected from the centralized provider.

Understanding Decentralized Data Storage Solutions

Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) provide a solid alternative to the centralized form of data storage, prioritizing privacy and data sovereignty. These networks follow protocols similar to the centralized method, with the critical difference being who holds the encryption keys to your data.

In networks like UltronGlow, the data is fully encrypted on the storage provider’s disk, but the encryption key used for this process is associated with the user’s unique crypto wallet. This means your data is fully encrypted, but no one but you has access to the encryption keys, ensuring true data privacy and sovereignty.

You can visualize the flow of data in a decentralized scenario like this:

You log into the storage provider’s sealed storage space using your unique crypto wallet.

The encryption key held within the wallet is used to decrypt the data.

The data is sent back to you.

It is important to note that the transmittance of data over the internet is safe in both centralized and decentralized scenarios, as the data is sent fully encrypted using TLS security (the “s” in “https”).

True Data Sovereignty is Not Far Fetched

In an age where data breaches and privacy concerns are increasingly common, a shift towards decentralized storage solutions seems necessary. Conversations about data ownership and control all lead to the same conclusion; the need for reliable decentralized storage that does not impose on individuals’ data rights. With the global data marketplace valued at over $968 million, it is important to move industry standards towards increased security and privacy.

A move towards decentralization opens up a significant possibility for individual users; monetization. Data sovereignty would allow users to monetize their data and available storage space. Contributing towards the network storage would allow users to earn passive income purely from allowing other users to store data on their drives. This could be an alarming concept for users at first. But the realization that only you could access your data on the network using your key, regardless of which node it is stored in, should significantly help overcome this fear.

Decentralization also has important implications for businesses and organizations. For example, companies can reduce the risks associated with data breaches and protect customer information more effectively, allowing for more trust with customers in the long term. Organizations could also contribute to network storage on a larger scale, allowing for new economic opportunities.

Given the numerous advantages that come with decentralized storage networks like UltronGlow, and the rapid development of blockchain technology, this is the right time to start reevaluating our reliance on centralized storage providers. Steps towards a more secure and privacy-centric future are essential for the longevity of data sovereignty. By embracing these solutions, we can work together to redefine how we interact with data for a better future.

About the Author

Jason Anderson, CTO of UltronGlow, led teams at Microsoft for over 25 years. He was the lead for Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service and then moved on to lead ConsenSys’ Quorum Blockchain Service.

Featured image: ©Feng Yu