The blockchain is a distributed database that allows for secure, transparent and tamper-proof transactions.
But can it be used to store private data? Yes, a blockchain can be used to store private data. Although the first uses of blockchain technology were geared towards public data, advancements have been leveraged to allow encrypted private data on blockchains.
In this blog post, we will explore the possibilities of using the blockchain to store sensitive or personal information such as photos, documents, video or music. We will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of doing so, and provide examples of how this could be done. Let’s go!
What is blockchain technology and how does it work?
Blockchain technology is best known for its role in the development of Bitcoin, but it has a range of potential applications far beyond cryptocurrency.
In its simplest form, a blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions. When a new transaction is made, it is added to the end of the ledger as a block. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to the previous block, making it impossible to tamper with data without invalidating the entire chain. This makes blockchain an ideal platform for secure, tamper-proof record-keeping.
Blockchains like Bitcoin are also transparent and public. This means that the entire digital ledger is open to anyone who wants to go and have a look at it. That’s right anyone can go back and see every transaction ever made - now that is public!
🤔 Curious about this? Learn how to read a blockchain.
Another benefit of blockchains is that they are decentralized, meaning they are not stored in any one location. Because blockchain data is stored in dozens, hundreds or even thousands of locations, it is highly impervious to hacking attacks. For these reasons, blockchain technology has immense potential in a variety of industries, from banking to supply chain management.
How can blockchains be used to store private data?
When most people think of a blockchain, they think of Bitcoin. However, blockchains are a versatile technology with a wide range of potential applications beyond the world of economics.
For example, blockchains can be used to store medical records, voting data, and archival records. Given the potentially sensitive nature of this data, it is important to ensure that it is stored securely and privately.
We have already covered how blockchains are usually public and tamper-proof, but can they also be used so you can store data privately?
Yes. Let’s use the Arweave blockchain as an example of how this is possible.
Arweave is a blockchain that was initially created as a solution to long-term data storage for archiving purposes. The benefit of Arweave is that you can store data permanently and immutably on a blockchain for hundreds of years with only one payment. Like many other blockchains, Arweave is public by default, so how can you add private data to it?
Applications like ArDrive, a file sharing app, have leveraged a the Arweave blockchain to include private data. For instance, ArDrive offers users private keys and encrypted data that secure access to the person who has the password. If anyone examines this data on the Arweave blockchain, they only see a highly generic transaction with no evidence of what they contain. The files are so private that even the ArDrive team cannot see them!
On ArDrive all different types of files can be stored such as png, jpeg, .docs, mp3 etc. Therefore, all of your photos, files, music and video can be stored privately on the blockchain.
The benefits of using blockchain to store private data
Blockchain technology offers a number of advantages over traditional databases.
First, blockchains are distributed, meaning that data is spread across a network of computers rather than being stored in a central location. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to access or tamper with the data.
In addition, blockchains are generally immutable, meaning that once data is entered into the chain, it cannot be altered. This makes it an ideal solution for storing sensitive information such as medical records or financial transactions.
Finally, blockchain gives users complete ownership and control over their data. With traditional databases, users must trust that the organization hosting the data will not misuse it. With blockchain, however, users can be confident that their data is safe and secure. As a result, blockchain represents a powerful tool for protecting private data.
The challenges of using blockchain to store private data
Blockchains are still an early technology and still have flaws to overcome. A number of challenges that need to be addressed before blockchains reach the mainstream.
First, there is the issue of user experience. Blockchain-based applications can be difficult to use, and users may not be willing to put up with the learning curve if they are not confident that their data will be secure. Blockchain falls into the world of what is termed Web3, an evolutionary step beyond web2 tech giants like Google and Dropbox. The user experience of Web2 is finely-tuned, but Web3 is still trying to marry intuitive user experiences with blockchain infrastructure.
Second, blockchain has a different password process than most users are familiar with. Instead of a simple email address and passwords, access to applications and passwords are created through digital wallets which a user needs to manage. In an effort to preserve privacy, Web3 applications generally do not keep your password or allow you to reset it if you lose it.
Finally, there is the issue of the right to be forgotten. Once data is stored on a blockchain, it becomes extremely difficult to delete it. This could have implications for people who want to manage their online identity and ensure that their personal data is not mishandled.
While these challenges need to be addressed (and are being worked on), blockchains still have the potential to revolutionize the way we store and manage private data.
The future of blockchain-based storage solutions for private data
The future of blockchain-based storage solutions for private data looks very promising. The data storage market is growing rapidly and there is ample room for blockchain-based storage solutions to gain a significant market share.
In particular, private data is especially well suited to being stored on a blockchain, as the decentralized nature of the technology makes it very difficult for hackers to tamper with the data.
In the coming years, a wide variety of industries from email providers to tech giants to health care will begin to leverage blockchains as a method of data storage.
Some of that data will be public, and some of it is going to be private.
Try adding private data to a blockchain
If you would like to try out putting private data on a blockchain you can always use ArDrive.
ArDrive uses the Arweave blockchain to store data permanently. There are no subscription fees and for $1 USD you can store hundreds of documents or photos.
The setup for ArDrive is straightforward and doesn’t require an email and you can get started here.