Can you teach your old data new tricks?

There’s a reason we’re asking that question. We saw a tweet the other day with a flow chart that asked one question: Do you need a blockchain? The flow arrow took you to a single answer, “no.” The tweet also called it “the most useless and over-hyped technology ever.”

Our position is very different: Blockchain-based ledger technology is the ideal means of decentralizing and protecting data.

Enterprises need to be open to changing how they do things. One way is to teach their old data new tricks. And that is done against the backdrop of three key elements: protecting it, working with it ethically, and moving it.

Protecting data

The early days of the internet were free and open. But today’s internet is free and dangerous. So it’s up to us to protect data when it is moving and when it is stationary. The enterprises we talk to are thinking about these things. They’re considering the customers. They’re considering the data as a true business asset. They’re establishing protection strategies to make the data more valuable, both to their own operations and to society.

Blockchain-based ledger technology is the ideal means of decentralizing and protecting data. Ledger technology is unparalleled in its ability to create immutable and trustworthy databases.

It allows an organization to extend its data to be used by others – they could be partners, vendors, customers or someone else – yet insulates that data from being changed or manipulated. View it any way you want, but you can never alter it or divert it for nefarious purposes.

Ethical data handling

The volume and types of data that describe individuals and organizations continue to expand, and this trend will only magnify as IoT sensors make their way into more of the everyday items we use. They create data, some of which might be sensitive. There are lines that separate the use and misuse of data, and some industry associations are addressing the issue head-on with ethical guidelines.

But gray areas will always exist, with questionable and confusing situations arising at various stages of the data life cycle that can expose an organization to risks. Yes, most have privacy policies, but more could be done to ensure the ethical collection, analysis and use of data.

Consent is a big part of ethical data behavior in the face of so many data collection methods involving humans. But even this can be muddied by the notion of informed consent, given the small percentage of people who ever read the terms and conditions before proceeding.

Another issue: Even if your organization anonymizes what is classified as sensitive personal data from your database, could it be re-identified in the future?

Blockchain or ledger technologies solve for some, though not all, of these issues. Carefully crafted ledger use could protect certain types of data collection and storage with its rigid crypto and cyber capabilities and the extreme amount of control it puts in the hands of the owner of the data.

Moving data

Data is much more valuable when it is moved, when it is shared and accessible. Centralized data is hidden data, with less value. Just as the internet was an open model, ledger technologies are decentralized to enable openness. The ledger allows us to create a place for moving our data and protecting it, decentralizing it, yet making it more secure.

Moving data, of course, requires a qualified, legitimate and trusted carrier. The process of moving your data will grow to become as important as the processes involved in creating and analyzing it. When the greatest value of the data is in its distribution, the networks that enterprises use are foundational to that objective.

If you haven’t already been talking to your carriers about their plans for 5G, about how 4G hands off to 5G, and about the aspects of the networking in 5G that will facilitate data movement, you need to start doing that now.

Whether blockchain and ledger technologies are the right fit for your organization is up to you to explore. If you don’t investigate on your own, you will never know, and your data will never get the chance to learn any new tricks.