On October 4, 2021, Facebook, along with WhatsApp and Instagram, disappeared from the internet.
Their DNS names stopped resolving, and their infrastructure IPs were offline. They were completely disconnected from the internet. At the same time, it was reported that 1.5 billion people allegedly had their personal data stolen from Facebook and posted for sale. To make matters worse, anyone who relied on Facebook to log in on third-party services was in the dark as well. The sign-in buttons we see on so many web pages are a symptom of the problem.
And if that weren’t enough, the day prior, whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed on “60 Minutes” that Facebook has long maintained a culture that “chose to optimize for its own interests” over what was good for the public.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In recent weeks, key members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), led by Mozilla, have stymied efforts to approve a web standard that would allow billions of people to privately and securely control their own data and identities. The proposal — now years in the making and mere months from the finish line — is known as Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs). These W3C members, in an egregiously opportunistic move, are protecting their own revenue streams, for themselves and for their political ideologies, at the expense of billions of people who would benefit from such a web standard. It seems Facebook is not alone in fostering a culture of putting internal business interests above the public interest.
Without proof of identity, an individual cannot access banking services, gain employment, or receive voting rights. According to the World Bank, 1.1 billion people are not able to formally prove their identity. The majority live in Africa and Asia and more than one-third are children who are unregistered. The United Nations identifies “preservation of identity” as a fundamental right of a child (Article 8 of the United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child). In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standard lacks provisions for user authentication. Identity thieves can take advantage of this oversight to steal data from data pools, leading to the rise of identity theft and online fraud. DIDs can solve all of these issues.
Corporations that own our personal data in their centralized systems have proven to be hopelessly inadequate stewards of that data. The world has seen a massive increase in identity theft, and the growth of surveillance capitalism — an entire shadow industry that analyzes, sells, and monetizes our data. In 2018, 2.8 billion consumer records were exposed through data breaches resulting in an estimated cost of more than $654 billion. The 2017 Equifax data breach exposed the personal data of more than 147 million people, affecting 56% of Americans. Recently, it was revealed that Syniverse, a company that routes billions of text…