Blockchain as much as it holds bright promises for the future, has a big problem – it still fails to attract a common user. The reasons are manifold. Banks and other incumbents with the help of the mainstream media perpetuate the idea of a blockchain as a tool for crime and money laundering. Another reason is that many of the current blockchain applications fail to motivate and commit their users for the long haul. Thus, despite enormous potential to change how we do things, blockchain is limited to projects based on speculative value and cryptocurrency ambitions.
Blockchain desperately needs breakthrough innovations. Not in technology itself, but in its applications and business models. It has to become a must-have, something we are committed to and motivated to use. It has to disrupt our usual ways. Current user motivation of blockchain projects is shaky at best. It quickly ends with the drop of the value of coins and tokens.
What kind of breakthrough is needed? The kind which connects application with user commitment, investment and psychological attachment. Let’s look at the theory. It says that usability is not the only thing that we value. The most successful products are those which commit us to them, which make us put some effort in obtaining or using them or invest something valuable in exchange. What do we value the most? Definitely money, but also time, work, data, our reputation, or obligations. It is user investment, not just user engagement.
As some argue, user investment creates bigger commitment to the product or service. It pushes the product into our lives. When the product or service becomes part of our lives, we are not that quick to get rid of it, even if something goes wrong. When looking for examples in the blockchain field, mining comes first to mind. You need to put quite an effort to set up a mining rig, not to mention material investment in GPUs and other hardware. Even when running, mining operation requires constant maintenance – it can become a full-time job. Mining also is one of the most successful and constantly growing blockchain endeavor. Even despite recent drop in mining profitability, mining did not cease to exist. There are too much effort and capital invested in the field.
Other more mainstream examples can be found in social media. It gradually overtook our lives diverting our focus, time and effort from other areas. We invest effort in creating and maintaining on-line profiles and sharing content. We depend on social media platforms for news, communication, relationships and entertainment. Again, even if it is blatantly clear that they do not care about our privacy, we still stick to them. Look at Facebook – how many people, except some high profiles making a statement, left it after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. #deletefacebook was trending on Twitter for some days,*** but its overall user base most likely will not be significantly affected by that. Of course, Facebook case is way more complex and cannot be solely explained by user investment: it is losing users to other competing services, it is dependent not only on users, but on the advertisers as well, and so on. But the general idea still applies – users have to be invested and committed to a product.
We at Consent Token (www.consentok.com) are working on the blockchain application, which could lead to higher user commitment and investment. We are not going to tie Consent Token to a traditional mining. Our innovation is a token, which imparts certain obligations on its holder, not just provides entitlements.
Token in computer science is an object, which represents the right to perform some operation. In law the consent is an act, which confirms someone’s right to perform some operation with respect to the consenter. Consent is a token in the fundamental sense.
We see immediate application of the Consent Token in the field of privacy and personal data processing, where consent of data subject (individual) is central.
The Consent Token concept is very simple. Individual grants consent for personal data processing by obtaining the Consent Token. While every individual will get a predefined amount of the Consent Tokens for free, the Consent Token is their consent, it is legally binding, and commits the user. By holding a Consent Token individual freely and consciously agrees that their personal data can be processed by other members of the Consent Token Network. If anyone wants to cancel consent – their simply have to sell their Consent Tokens. It is that easy. Consent Token records all grants, cancellations (sales) and user id on the blockchain.
Consent Token not only commits individual users through obligations, it also incentivizes them to participate. If they hold Consent Tokens, they earn interest. They sell some tokens, they earn again. The Consent Tokens will also allow consensus rights in the Consent Token network. This way the users will be motivated to hold on to the Consent Token and take interest in its value.
Businesses, if they want to obtain consents from individuals, have to buy Consent Tokens on a free market. Businesses will be attracted to buy the Consent Tokens simply because there are no efficient alternatives.
It is important to note, that Consent Token does not deal with data itself. Our innovation is in consent management and value sharing with the consenter. We won’t change the ways that the data industries deal with personal data, but we allow them to operate under the consent of data subjects (individuals) in exchange for some part of the value that they are creating.
Consent Token is different from other tokens. It has a direct connection with the real-life implications. It connects obligations with entitlements. It also provides individual users with simple and easy way to control their personal data and earn from it. Consent Token holders will be part of transparent network, where everyone knows who has obtained their consent and what type of personal data is processed.
The author Dr. Auste Kiskiene is the co-founder of Consent Token, Fulbright Scholar at Montana State University, Knowledge and Data Management Researcher, Entrepreneur and Assoc. Professor of Management of Entrepreneurship at Kazimieras Simonavicius University.