Does your data belong to you? It’s a question that was left unanswered by the internet’s founding fathers, a fact that big tech giants would go on to exploit many years later.
Although few could have foreseen the digital panopticon that has since enclosed us, scandals like Cambridge-Analytica have in recent times highlighted the dark art of data harvesting and tracking, with many people determined to reclaim ownership of their data online.
Breaking Up the Big Data Cartel
That we receive no remuneration for our data is something most of us freely accept. But people are starting to wake up amid a gradual fightback on many fronts. We see it in the growing user base of privacy-preserving incognito web browsers like Brave and in the emergence of dedicated data-management platforms such as TIKI and Swash.
In our hyper-connected digital world, data is king; it quite literally feeds into all of our systems and processes. And while data about, say, weather patterns or population demographics arguably doesn’t belong to anyone – or at any rate, companies are free to do with it what they wish – data concerning our individual browsing habits, political views, and inherent desires is completely different. Not least because tech giants convert that valuable information into billions of dollars in profits, either through selling it on to advertisers or using it themselves for targeted campaigns.
The introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 promised to punish companies for flagrant data violations, and in fairness, fines to the tune of €280million have been issued in the three years since. Nevertheless, one must concede that GDPR – famously touted as the world’s toughest online privacy law – hasn’t come close to ending the invasive data-collection practices of the big tech cartel of Twitter, Facebook and Amazon. And that’s despite slapping the latter with a massive $886.6m fine.
Seemingly insuperable challenges call for novel solutions, and the aforementioned Swash definitely fits the bill. Styled as an ‘all-inclusive data ecosystem,’ the community-driven project seeks to reimagine data ownership by unlocking unique value systems via multiple monetization mechanisms: compensating users for their data, in other words.
Redefining the Attention Economy
Founded by a tech-savvy team of software developers, cybersecurity specialists, and blockchain experts in 2019, Swash uses smart contracts to establish a trustless and transparent ecosystem characterized by data governance, access control, token swapping and revenue sharing. While everyday internet users are the primary beneficiaries, Swash also enables businesses and developers to unlock incentive mechanisms in their own right.
In the case of businesses, for example, Swash replaces the expensive, low-quality data provided by intermediaries, with cost-effective solutions that are geared towards privacy, transparency and sustainability. In short, organizations pay less to access richer datasets without compromising their reputation.
Having already released a browser plug-in that enables more than 75,000 web users to exercise autonomy by earning money from their web activities, Swash is on a mission to usher in a new age of data. To this end, what it calls its First Wave Solutions are just about ready to crest. These solutions, according to the project’s whitepaper, represent just the initial use-cases baked into the interconnected Swash ecosystem and include a Data Union; a business intelligence platform, sIntelligence; native applications, sApps; and a computation portal called sCompute.
Like many blockchain-based projects (Swash is built on Ethereum), the ecosystem is powered by its own digital currency, SWASH. Used for cross-chain utility and governance, SWASH will be paid to ecosystem actors for their participation, and act as the default transactional currency in each of the aforementioned applications. Businesses, for example, can use SWASH tokens to buy data via the sIntelligence platform, which collates insights about their industry, market, and competitors. The token can also be used as staking liquidity, as in popular defi applications, giving users another opportunity to monetize their attention.
Having recently raised $7 million from a slew of leading VC firms and being named one of Coinlist Seed’s Fall 2021 Batch selections, Swash is currently gearing up for its public sale on the Gnosis Auction platform on October 29. Those keen to participate must whitelist and complete KYC before October 25 or when 20,000 places have been filled, whichever comes first.
If data really is king, the plebeian masses appear ready to storm the citadel. Swash is just one project mobilizing their displeasure with the status quo. Over 78,000 people have already downloaded Swash’s browser app, showing a clear product-market-fit and demand. If it succeeds, a better and fairer internet might just be the outcome.
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