Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook has said that he is “potentially interested” in adding the Facebook login onto blockchain in an interview with Jonathan Zittrain, a Law Professor at Harvard. Zuckerberg stated that blockchain can provide users with unique control when giving data access to third-party applications.
Facebook has continued to invest in its blockchain team since creating it in May last year. Their blockchain team is led by David Marcus who used to be the Vice President of Messenger. The goal of this team is to find out the best ways to make use of blockchain technology with Facebook. The company acquired a blockchain company called Chainspace earlier this month. Chainspace works on research and development of smart contracts.
It was earlier reported that Facebook had explored the possibility of creating its own virtual currency for payments. However, this is the first sign that Facebook could integrate blockchain as part of its login and information-sharing system. In this interview, Zuckerberg stated that authentication was “a use of blockchain that I’m potentially interested in,” although “I haven’t found a way for this to work.” Basically, the suggested system would take the place of Facebook Connect with “something that’s fully distributed.” That system could allow people to pick the apps to provide access to and put a limit on the amount of information that is shared. Some third party applications have already created similar systems to safeguard users’ personal information but Facebook adopting this approach would be a big change.
“You basically take your information, you store it on some decentralised system and you have the choice of whether to log in in different places and you’re not going through an intermediary. There’s a lot of things that I think would be quite attractive about that. For developers, one of the things that is really troubling about working with our system, or Google’s system for that matter, or having to deliver services through Apple’s App Store is that you don’t want to have an intermediary between serving the people who are using your service and you. Where someone can just say hey, we as a developer have to follow your policy and if we don’t, then you can cut off access to the people we are serving. That’s kind of a difficult and troubling position to be in.”
This move would signify that Facebook could not eliminate access to third party applications which would be a massive boost for developers of these applications. However, Zuckerberg has admitted that making Facebook access decentralised would also mean that in the event of a big information breach like Cambridge Analytica, third party services that broke the rules of privacy could still operate without limitations.
Facebook has faced significant challenges with apps and information sharing in the past few years. In October last year, Facebook said that hackers were able to access the basic information of 14 million user accounts from July 2017 to September 2018 due to unexpected behaviour in the Google Chrome browser. In December, reports appeared that Facebook had allowed organisations like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon access to private information years after it should have been halted.
The risk represented in further information sharing scandals in one of the chief reasons why Facebook is unsure of making the change. “In a fully distributed system, there’d be nobody who could cut off their access. A fully distributed system empowers individuals on the one hand but it really raises the stakes,” states the Facebook Chief, pointing out that “it’s a lot easier to hold accountable large companies like Facebook or Google” than a series of third-party apps. “You’d also have more cases of abuse and the recourse would be much harder.”