The media outlet Salon sparked some controversy by publicly giving readers the choice to lease computing power to mine a particular cryptocurrency, trading it for the right to read their articles free of charge.
This event might seem like an outrage, and might be new to some, but this is not a novelty at all. Throughout the history of cryptocurrency mining, we have seen many actors doing so without the consent of the user. Take the example of a Starbucks franchise in a big Latin American metropolis: by providing free internet, they launched code that allowed your computer to mine this cryptocurrency mentioned above for them, without notifying or getting the authorization of the users .
As opposed to this flagrant abuse of the consumers, Salon has come forward: they need to earn money, pay salaries, etc.: it is all legitimate and carefully worded on their FAQs. But this has brought along a stream of new users that started thinking: what if some parties directly do this and don’t even ask us whether it’s okay or not?
Well, this is a standard practice, which does not mean it’s righteous or legal. It just exists. And it is our duty, as responsible users of the web, as guardians of ours, our employers’ and our families’ data; to stay vigilant. To make conscious choices. To take the necessary steps to protect ourselves, and to determine how valuable such data is, and how much of it would we want to be compromised over “free reading” of some articles, or free wi-fi access.
The blockchain gives users an unparalleled advantage: no, it’s not earning money by pumping and dumping — it’s providing the world with the tools to approach this cybernetic, interconnected world responsibly while, as mentioned, staying vigilant and conscious.
This latest social media scandal should be nothing but another call for consciousness, in the aspects that we are going to detail further along this article.
Obviously, this piece is aimed as well to raise awareness about Golem and why our model that allows users to rent computing power is a much better alternative than the ones that have been going on under our noses, and without our permission.
So first things’ first. Why do we need Blockchain, security and data protection?
“We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do” — Extract from A Cypherpunk’s manifesto by Eric Hughes.
To be able to protect our data is a fundamental right. The different Blockchain architectures enable us to safeguard what we do, who we are and what we own; in a relatively immutable manner, that’s publicly audited and time-stamped. Anonymity is possible via Blockchain as the distributed ledger structure enables such property, the need for central databases is reduced dramatically, and data breach events such as the Equifax one are avoided.
Secondly, why should the users choose Golem or any alternative for renting idle computing power instead of being subject to other options like the one Salon proposes, or worse, of being used to mine for third parties without and heads-up as this coffee franchise has done with its consumers?
On this point, we can only speak for our project, but any architecture that enables the user to earn income in exchange for renting out computing power, and this income goes straight into the user’s (virtual) pocket, is the best option one can have. Free articles are great, free wi-fi as well. But these “freebies” are not gratis at all. They are imposing their set of rules on the users and telling them how to spend their money. Choosing to rent out the idle computing power via Golem allows you to earn the money, and to just spend it wherever you want. What you do with the income generated, should be of nobody’s business. The power over this should be always in the hands of the user.
Moreover, as the user is mining an x crypto in exchange for “free” stuff, the hardware used is vulnerable. The centralized service (media, coffee shop, you name it) can access any corner of it, and your resilience to data breaches is lost.
Okay, this all sounds alarming, what can one do in terms of protection?
Read as much as you can to make conscious decisions about your data and your computing power. Dig into the terms & conditions when entering non-secure connections. Learn about the tools that can protect you. Make sure to know well which are your data protection rights. Read the Cypherpunk Manifesto to know where this Blockchain movement comes from. Encrypt your e-mails. Choose the most secure chat apps. Devour as many white papers as possible. Let the words “due diligence” rule your cybernetic life. Contribute to the community that’s aiming to decentralize and regain control. Because the control we want to win back is that of your data, identity, and destiny.