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Marvin Tong on Battling the “Data Empire” with Privacy and Decentralization

Marvin Tong on Battling the “Data Empire” with Privacy and Decentralization

Mar 22, 2021

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Marvin Tong wants to revolutionize decentralized blockchain technologies by ensuring that user data is kept private on-chain. Decentralization is powerful because it disperses technological control away from powerful individuals or organizations towards a distributed network, but Marvin sees room for improvement to combat the "Data Empire.".

"There is a market need for privacy on-chain," Marvin said on the latest Follow the White Rabbit Podcast. "You need to store sensitive data. That is not going to happen on the blockchain before any privacy protocol."

To that end, in 2018, Marvin founded Phala Network, a secure, decentralized, trustless cloud-computing network. By running smart contracts in secure areas of processors -- known as Trusted Execution Environments -- Phala Network protects user data. Unlike general decentralized applications with activity typically happening on a public blockchain, Phala Network provides computing power to users while employing blockchain to maintain transactional order without revealing anything about the transactions themselves.

"We decided to solve the problem that decentralized applications cannot protect sensitive, private data on-chain," Marvin said.

Marvin dislikes the current state of business in the digital world which relies heavily on user data. For companies in the technology space, "generally their business model is to provide a free service and build business via data collected by the free service to send advertising more efficiently and promote clicking," Marvin said. "The whole of Silicon Valley and internet companies in China are based on the Data Empire."

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While data can have positive uses, such as improving the quality of service provided to users, people should have control over their own data. As it stands, internet companies collecting user data essentially have excessive freedom to do with that data as they please. "Our data is totally controlled by them. There is no way for you to control how they use it. They are using your own data to make more money on yourself," Marvin warned.

Decentralization takes power away from these companies, but it is not the end of the road. Users should not have to make their information public on-chain to reap the benefits of decentralized technology. After all, privacy is essential to freedom and security.

"The right to hide [your information] on the internet is a very basic human right," Marvin explained. "It is the right to fight back." As it stands, "in digital society, there is not a good balance. Most people do not know technology deeply so they have very little rights to fight back against, for example, Google, Facebook or Amazon." Marvin is looking to change that by protecting user information on public chains. 

To hear more about Marvin's fight for uniting privacy and decentralization, follow us down the rabbit hole. Listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.

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Feb 22, 2021
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