Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had a discussion with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain on blockchain-based authorization of user data on Feb 20. The topics included information fiduciaries, encryption, decentralized services, governance, fighting misinformation, different business models, privacy innovation, and future research areas.
In the video of their discussion posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg said Facebook has “a decentralizing force in the world”, and hints at the possibility of Facebook moving towards offering decentralized services.
Decentralization has its appeal to the peers of his generation, he explained, because getting into technology “gives individuals power, and is not massively centralizing.”
A potential decentralized service Zuckerberg said he was considering is for a blockchain-based authorization system for users to have control over their data:
“Basically, you take your information, you store it on some decentralized system and you have the choice to log into places without going through an intermediary.”
Another possible application is to offer encryption of Facebook’s messaging services. He stressed, however, the need to balance the benefits of having encryption, like privacy and security, with the importance of maintaining safety. He said, “people rightfully have an expectation of us [Facebook], that we are going to do everything we can to stop terrorists from recruiting people or people from exploiting children.”
On a larger note, while the “relatively computationally intense” processes of decentralized applications could be surmounted, he highlighted that moral implications must be considered adequate as well.
“I think the more interesting questions there are no feasibility in the near term but are the philosophical questions of the goodness of a system like that one,” Zuckerberg said.
Decentralization might give users more control over their data, but it could also ironically lead to more abuse. In addition, any recourse will be far harder to handle compared to a centralized system.
Facebook has been quietly exploring the blockchain space. Earlier this month, it made its first blockchain-related acquisition by taking on the team from Chainspace – a blockchain company focused on scalability issues, especially on using sharding in smart contracts.
Last year, Facebook vice president and former PayPal president David Marcus had announced that he was stepping down from the board of crypto exchange Coinbase to focus on setting up a new group at Facebook that looked into blockchain.