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The Blockchain and Our Privacy: Can the New Technology Help with Our Growing Privacy Problems? – ReadWrite

Privacy concerns about the Internet have been around since it broke into the mainstream from the academic world. But, for decades, the voices warning us about the dangers inherent in it were considered little more than prophets of doom, paranoid maniacs yelling in the desert. But then, the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, and changed the game. 

Concerns about privacy and the big-brotherish Internet surveillance have skyrocketed after Snowden’s revelations. The “marginal” issues raised by the “prophets of dooms” so long ago are now central to many Internet users worldwide. 

The primary question in every concerned user’s mind is: what can I do to protect my privacy, then? So naturally, using a VPN is one of the most common answers (these days, even The Pirate Bay’s website encourages its users to adopt a VPN). So, it shouldn’t surprise us how the VPN market has exploded in recent years.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, pouring fuel into the fire. After that, online digital activities grew exponentially as millions of people worldwide found themselves confined, needing to work from home. They began doing everything through Zoom meetings, and cloud computing. Learning on the fly about the privacy implications of their everyday activities.
So, the previous indifference to privacy issues has become an obsession for many. Suddenly, everything we say or do has potentially tragic privacy implications, and the world is in constant danger. 

And if everything and anything can influence everybody’s privacy, new technologies have even more potential to do so, like the blockchain.

Blockchain technology has been a subject as volatile as privacy – if not more so. The ideas behind Bitcoin’s structure crawled out of the cryptocurrency subculture into the computer science’s mainstream. It seemed that this new way of doing things had the potential to solve every technological or administrative problem. Then the hype went down almost as quickly as it went up.

Some very influential forces in the technology world have remained adamant about their commitment to the blockchain. IBM, for instance, chose the Stellar Lumens blockchain as its platform of choice for blockchain projects, and it’s remained bullish about it. Then the world shook in fear as rumors went around that Facebook’s Libra project would be a blockchain integrated into the social network. And more recently, we’ve seen how other tech giants such as Samsung, Amazon, and Microsoft are all putting together blockchain projects to compete in the market.

So, is the interest in the blockchain having a renaissance? Probably not. It seems that the world’s leading players never dumped their blockchain projects for the future; they just kept them under wraps. There is still plenty of faith in the blockchain’s potential to go around, although it has remained very far away from fulfilling its promises.

The potential in the blockchain is not in question. It’s there, and it’s enormous. But too many questions still are in the way of actual mass adoption. Blockchains have implications for personal and data privacy, of course. Some of those implications are peripheral, but some go to the core of the problem. So, that begs the following question: could personal privacy be the issue that finally brings blockchain technologies right into the heart of the mainstream?
Before we go ahead and try to answer that question, let’s first review the basics of blockchains.
Bitcoin is the blockchain that gets the most attention from enthusiasts and skeptics alike. That’s because it was the first one to arrive in the world, and the wild fluctuations that Bitcoin’s value has had over the years make it a dramatic story at all times. So it’s Bitcoin’s value that gets all the press, and thus most people are missing the point: the star in the cryptocurrency world is not Bitcoin. It’s the blockchain itself.

bitcoin and blockchain technology

Image: Source

The blockchain is the algorithm that enables Bitcoin (and every other cryptocurrency) to exist. It’s the technology that can produce and maintain a secured, immutable, unhackable database (a ledger in most cases), and it’s that ledger that keeps Bitcoin alive.

And again, the blockchain is the innovative element in crypto, not the currencies. Blockchain applications extend far and away from managing digital money, even if it remains the use case that led to its existence.

And why is the blockchain the true star in the cryptocurrency movement? Because it provides a method in which you can keep a database pristine at all times. It makes arbitrary alterations or user fraud exceedingly challenging to achieve and even impossible in practice if the network is large enough. So a blockchain can authenticate anything that can be digitalized, even indirectly, without any “trust gaps” in the process. 

Blockchain observers and enthusiasts see a resource that could become an alternative to things like passwords and usernames in the blockchain. Imagine a blockchain in the future that provides every single Internet user in the world with a digital identity. One that is encrypted, secure, and unalterable without the user’s consent. And this identity certificate will give you access to everything from your Gmail account to your medical records. The same blockchain would keep tracking your data and storing it. Because the blockchain architecture is all about safety and inalterability, all that data would remain safe and secure at all times. And that’s the theory. Personal privacy aided by blockchain could look like that in the future.
But every new technology always has to face and overcome generalized user resistance.

So a relevant question is, are we ready to allow the blockchain to create a digital watermark for each of us? Are we willing? Will we trust it and support it if such a network comes alive?
If we’re going to talk about using the blockchain as the foremost tool to protect privacy, then the first thing for us to understand is that privacy and protection are two very different notions. So, let’s try to come up with working definitions for both.

Privacy refers to your ability to decide what information other digital parties can collect about you. For example, are you ok with a website analyzing the type of songs you’re listening to every day? Or figuring out what your favorite pasta brand is by analyzing your shopping decisions? What rights should you have to determine all that?

Protection comes next. Once that privacy-related information is out there in somebody’s database, what is the database owner doing to make sure that it’s secure and that it won’t end up in the hands of hackers, third parties, or the government?

Privacy is a user right (not that it’s very respected by everybody, but it is, in principle). Protection is a duty that those who conduct data gathering (not that they honor it so often, either, but, again, it is in principle) are supposed to observe, if only because it’s in their best interest.

So the coin has two sides: privacy and protection, and both are crucial. Blockchain technology is excellent at one, but not with the other one.

Let’s consider the following scenario: 

A user wants the option to delete a bit of data about himself that the blockchain stored previously. He can’t. The blockchain’s databases, ledgers, or other digital objects cannot be altered retrospectively. A blockchain’s memory is perfect because its history has a copy in every node in the network. In the words of Douglas Adams, “once that something happens, it stays happened.”

So how much of an advantage is this perfect blockchain memory? Well, it already flies in the face of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. This legislation places the right of every user to be “forgotten” as an essential priority.

EU GDPR chart
Image: Source
So, for instance, if I order a book on Amazon today that could become shameful to own in the future, that simple fact shouldn’t stay online to pester my future existence forever. But if these issues became ruled by the blockchain, then the memory of that book would be there forever to make my future miserable. We could discuss if any digital information storage system can truly forget naturally, but that’s for another day and another article. 

For now, we will keep to the blockchain case. So no, it doesn’t forget; it never will. And this illustrates how a blockchain Big Brother would be a fantastic solution in terms of security but a bane for privacy rights.

Let’s imagine something that a blockchain could manage: the ability to control when your data can be used in a particular event instead of having the ability to opt out immediately. This is a nuance compatible with the blockchain philosophy, and it could improve everybody’s data experience.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The scenarios we’ve described so far are what we could have with the current blockchain technology. But the blockchain is in its earliest infancy, it’s in the diaper stage still, and as it grows up and matures, it could offer us something much more nuanced and flexible to assist with privacy and protection. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater yet. The idea to learn is that, at this stage, the usefulness of blockchains to protect personal privacy is very limited, as we (or the EU regulations) need it to be.

Centuries ago, gold and silver were wealth. They stored value. In today’s world, gold, silver, legal tender, and many other things hold value too (Bitcoin, for instance), but there’s a new player in the world: data. There is value in data in today’s economy.

For example, every time you perform a search on Google, the server knows it, keeps a record, and stores it in a database. Why? Because it knows how to put that piece of data together with other ones about you and monetize them. If you provide a valued customer ID at your grocery store, somebody tracks that information because it’s worth something to them.

And that’s nothing! When the Internet of things becomes prevalent, all your devices and toys will provide insane amounts of information about yourself to anybody willing to pay for it. And this is the context in which a blockchain becomes a vital tool in personal privacy protection.
A blockchain can empower users to choose the bits of data they want to be out there and who should have them. No, you can’t alter them once they’re out. So, if they visited a site with questionable content, the world would know (the fraction of the world who cares, at least).
But they could have the option to turn off access to that server so that nobody finds out. This would hold true until the blockchain in question gets hacked, of course. And hacked, it will be until it has enough nodes scattered around the planet so that no single agent can ever secure control of more than 50% + 1 of the network, which is what a hack needs.

So, yes, blockchains can still get hacked. And no, it’s not easy. And when they’re as big as Bitcoin, for example, it’s impossible in practice. But until the theoretical possibility remains there, the danger for privacy protection prevails. And even the theoretical chance a hacker has of disrupting a blockchain becomes irrelevant when complexity comes into the equation.

But let’s not get sidetracked. The blockchain holds enormous potential for protecting personal privacy and data. But having a blockchain-based solution for this problem is years in the future. Moreover, that kind of project would need willing coordination from governments, businesses, users, and regulatory authorities before it can happen.

The most likely scenario is that we will see pieces of a solution coming together in the next few years as the most tech-savvy companies begin to put forward blockchain experiments that offer partial protection to their customers. But it will be at least five years (being very optimistic) before we can see a blockchain-based encrypted identity service pop up as a viable commercial alternative.

So the big question remains: can blockchain be the personal privacy protection solution we all want? Yes, it could be. It has the seeds of the solution in it so that the fruit could solve the problem in the future. So the answer is: yes, maybe, someday.

But as things stand today, even one year is too long to wait for anything. The digital world moves too fast already. So if what we want is something that will help things right here and now, then blockchain isn’t it. Unfortunately, nothing will help us improve our privacy protection more than the partial solutions we already have in the very present.

Anthony is CEO and Founder of Gaenzle Marketing. He is a two-time published author, digital marketing influencer, and technology enthusiast. He has helped brands both large and small grow and thrive across multiple industries through strategic marketing campaigns and introducing powerful technology solutions to improve productivity and help them grow.


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NFL Week 17: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Injury Report

Questionable = Uncertain as to whether the player will play
The New England Patriots (8-8) and the Buffalo Bills (12-3) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (7-7) and the Cincinnati Bengals (10-4) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (7-6) and the Las Vegas Raiders (5-8) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (6-6) and the Arizona Cardinals (4-8) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (6-5) and the Buffalo Bills (8-3) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (6-4) and the Minnesota Vikings (8-2) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (5-4) and the New York Jets (6-3) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (4-4) and the Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (3-4) and the New York Jets (5-2) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (3-3) and the Chicago Bears (2-4) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

The New England Patriots (2-3) and the Cleveland Browns (2-3) announce the following player injuries and practice participation.

Tamara Brown and Evan Lazar Recap the first day of practice from the East West Shrine Bowl from the UNLV Fertitta Football Complex.

Patriots Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh addresses the media after day 1 of the East West Shrine Bowl.
NFL prospects on the Shrine Bowl West team react to being coached by the Patriots.

Check in with the Patriots new Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Bill O’Brien as he discusses his decision to return to New England.

The New England Patriots Foundation and Cole Strange returned to Young Woods Elementary to show support for the Providence school who promised to improve their attendance at the start of the 2022 school year. The students’ perfect attendance efforts were rewarded with a visit from Pat Patriot, New England cheerleaders and first round draft pick Cole Strange.

In this segment of “NFL Films Presents,” Charissa Thompson sits down with recently retired New England Patriots coaches Dante Scarnecchia and Ivan Fears.

With the conclusion of their 2022 season, the Patriots 2023 slate of opponents has been set.
The Patriots will pick 14th overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Entry Draft.

Ever get confused about the new stat in an article you read? Here’s an explanation of what the metrics mean.
New construction beginning in 2022 will create the largest video board for an outdoor stadium, new hospitality and function spaces and a completely reimagined north entrance to the stadium by 2023.


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Rodent issues at Sunrise senior living facility leads state to close

The Florida Department of Health has ordered a senior living facility in Broward County to shut its kitchen and alleviate a “serious rodent issue” after Local 10 news brought the problem to the state’s attention.
Local 10 News learned the infestation has been going on for six weeks at Pacifica Senior Living located at 4201 Springtree Drive in Sunrise.

Residents, who are served three meals a day there, told Local 10 News they were unaware of the issue.
State inspectors ordered the kitchen at the facility shut Tuesday night and were told they needed to find an alternative, safe way to serve meals until the rodents are gone and the kitchen is re-inspected.

Video sent to Local 10 News shows a large rat with a slice of bread heading up a pole while another rodent could be seen with its head sticking out of an air conditioning vent.

The video was sent anonymously to Local 10 News with the message, “Jeff, please do something, they serve meals to the elderly here.”

Within hours of receiving notice from Local 10 News, the Department of Health suspended the facility’s sanitation certificate, meaning Pacifica cannot engage in food service and must find an “alternative process to serve safe meals.”
Local 10 News’ Jeff Weinsier went to Pacifica Senior Living, parked in the back of the building and watched.

A pest removal company was already there.
Within minutes, a chef exited the building with a rat stuck to a glue trap.

Shortly after that, the chef threw a box into the dumpster. When we looked to see what it was, it was a box of single-serve Corn Flakes with the container tops gnawed open.

Pacifica has been keeping its residents in the dark about the rodent problem while keeping the kitchen open.
Weinsier spoke with several residents who said they had no idea there was an issue.

Bridget Parks is the administrator at Pacifica. She is seen in video taken by Local 10 News talking with an exterminator and a kitchen employee on the day Weinsier saw several rodents being removed.

“Our corporate office has a statement for you,” was all Parks said, refusing to talk and instead handing over a statement that read: “We have been diligently working with a highly reputable pest control company for more than six weeks. Today (Monday), we have requested that they provide the maximum support necessary to put this issue behind us.”

As of Wednesday morning, residents still had not been told about the issue.
Local 10 News did look over past inspections at Pacifica, and while they did receive an unsatisfactory in May and June of last year, the violations didn’t involve rodent issues.

The Department of Health will be re-inspecting the facility before the kitchen is allowed to re-open.
Pacifica is licensed for 200 residents.

Local 10 News is not privy as to what Pacifica is doing to feed its residents or where they are getting the food.
Copyright 2023 by WPLG – All rights reserved.

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.


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Using Technology to Make Work More Human – Daily

The next wave of digital tech, or “smart tech,” has the potential and power to help us rehumanize work. Rather than doing the same work faster and with fewer people, smart tech creates an opportunity to redesign jobs and reengineer workflows to enable people to focus on the parts of work that humans are particularly well-suited for, such as relationship building, intuitive decision making, empathy, and problem solving. But it will require organizational leaders to make informed, careful, strategic decisions to ensure the technology is used to enhance our humanity and enable people to do the kinds of relational, empathetic, problem-solving activities we do best. This article offers some initial steps to get started introducing smart tech within your own organization.
The Great Resignation wasn’t created by the pandemic so much as supersized by it. The unwillingness of workers to rush back into cubicles, behind counters, onto assembly lines, and behind the wheel is a direct result of work cultures that too often default to suspicion, inflexible schedules, and unrealistic workloads. The virtual and flexible work arrangements necessitated by the pandemic were revelatory for many people, but didn’t free them from the 24/7 onslaught of tasks, back-to-back meetings, and emails created by always-on cultures and technologies. But the next wave of digital tech — what we call “smart tech” — has the potential and power to be different and to reverse these trends. Instead of dehumanizing us, smart tech can actually help rehumanize work.
In our book The Smart Nonprofit, we define “smart tech” as the AI and other advanced digital technologies that automate work by taking over tasks that only people could do previously. Smart tech makes decisions instead of and for people. While some feel that the interests of workers are at odds with smart tech — that humans and machines are in direct competition — we believe that this is a false dichotomy that’s uninformed, unimaginative, and just plain wrong. Smart tech and humans are not competing with one another; they are complimentary, but only when the tech is used well.
There will be parts of jobs that are suitable for automation, but few, if any, that can (or should!) be completely replaced by smart tech. What automation can change for the better is the experience of work. Rather than doing the same work faster and with fewer people, smart tech creates an opportunity to redesign jobs and reengineer workflows to enable people to focus on the parts of work that humans are particularly well-suited for, such as relationship building, intuitive decision making, empathy, and problem solving.
Companies will be making many choices about automation in the next few years. And those decisions will influence how employees, customers, and other stakeholders perceive your company going forward. For instance, will your company choose to institute:
Organizational leaders are going to face many choices when it comes to smart tech in the near future. Commercial applications using smart tech are available off-the-shelf for every department from communications to accounting to service delivery. It will require informed, careful, strategic thought to ensure the technology is used to enhance our humanity and enable people to do the kinds of relational, empathetic, problem-solving activities we do best.
Consider the case of The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis counseling to young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) people. The Trevor Project is an example of what we call a “Smart Nonprofit” — an organization that has stepped carefully and wisely into automation by understanding “cobotting,” the combination of people and smart tech that brings out the best in both. They created Riley, a chatbot that helps train counselors by providing real-life simulations of conversations with potentially suicidal teens. Riley expands the training capacity of the organization enormously by always being available for a training session with volunteers. But the Trevor Project also knows that staying human-centered and ensuring that teens are always talking directly to another human being is critical to fulfilling its mission. Riley isn’t subtracting from the human experience; it’s adding to it.
Cobotting goes beyond working with chatbots. For example, Benefits Data Trust (BDT), a Philadelphia-based organization focused on poverty reduction, integrated smart tech into their application process. Call-in center staff assist clients in navigating and completing applications for public benefits. The computer system was trained on thousands of interactions between call-in staff and clients to make recommendations among dozens of possible public benefits. The system also pre-populated forms for clients, saving staff an enormous amount of time. The pain point they were addressing was the enormous amount of time and documentation it takes for clients to apply for and receive public benefits. As BDT’s chief data and technology officer Ravindar Gujral told us, “At the end of the day, our role…is to create a human connection.”
Cobotting can also address another workplace stressor: inclusion. For example, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation uses automation to streamline the administration of patient encounters, where scheduling, diagnosis, medication orders, and patient care take place. For example, if a doctor orders a colonoscopy for a patient during an examination, the prescription for the prep medications is automatically sent to the prison pharmacy staff, and the 48-hour liquid diet instructions are automatically sent to food service staff. This is just one of the many patient encounters that can be tracked across all correctional facilities in the system. In addition to this type of automation, visually impaired employees can “hear” information on the screen via speech reading interfaces and use voice-to-text tools to input information on the screen.
Cobotting takes time and careful implementation to do well. However, the benefits to reducing staff overload are enormous. An October 2021  survey by Salesforce of 773 automation users in the United States found that 89% are more satisfied with their job and 76% say they are more satisfied with their stress levels at work as result of using automation.
So how do you get started introducing smart tech within your own organization? Here are a few initial steps you can take:
Smart tech and automation can make work and workplaces more fulfilling and less exhausting. But doing so requires leaders to dig into the implications of automation and make smart, ethical choices about using tech that enhances our humanity and makes work better, healthier, and happier for everyone.


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