Identity on the blockchain

USA (Cambridge)

The more our lives have been transposed to the internet, the larger our personal data trails have become. Bank details, medical records, GPS locations – pictures of our breakfasts – all stored in massive centralised data centres, distributed between a handful of tech giants. With it, data privacy has become a hot topic, which is where data service provider Ethos comes in. A social network that is built on Ethos doesn’t save information to a centralised system and nothing is owned, giving you complete control over your data.

What bitcoin has done for currency, and bittorrent for media, Ethos does for personal data. Each of these systems is built on blockchain, a ‘distributed consensus‘ technology, which means everyone shares and stores part of a digital chain of interactions. Each one of our data fingerprints works together to confirm and back up the others, creating a true and verifiable record of every online interaction ever made. But because nothing is centralised, your personal data fingerprint cannot be seen by anyone else, and can’t be hacked or corrupted. Blockchain has been lauded as the most innovative and radical invention since the internet itself.

Traditional methods of storing medical records for example, are prone to breaches and hacking. A decentralised database would remove any central failures and give top notch security to boot. Users can generate public and private keys and encrypt data, public keys would be used when needed to give access to medical professionals or insurance companies. Banking systems built on blockchain enable free and secure online money transactions. The country of Estonia, which secures much of its banking infrastructure with blockchain technology, boasts the lowest rate of credit card fraud in the euro zone.

Ethos was developed by Amir Lazarovich as part of the 2014 MIT Bitcoin Contest and reflects the shift in thinking towards privacy as the right of everyone not just the few. The new technologies which enable online autonomy have the power to revolutionise how we think about data.


Ethos was mapped by Tomás Diez in his AtlasChart Top 6. The Director of Fab Lab Barcelona at IAAC transports us from 3D printing prosthetics in refugee camps to the greenest school on earth.

Written by

Lauren Burrows, Writer/ Researcher, Atlas of the Future (02 November 2015)

Project leader

Amir Lazarovich, Developer Advocate, Google

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