Search engines are an integral part of the web browser experience, but users are increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of personal data required to curate results.
Until recently, it seemed impossible for users to take advantage of the search capabilities made possible by their data without disclosing it to third parties. However, some believe that blockchain technology can help deliver the best of both worlds.
We met with Kurt Nielsen, co-founder and president of Partisia Blockchain, to find out what impact blockchain can have on the search market, search engine optimization and the online advertising industry.
What aspects of the Partisia blockchain make it suitable for search engines?
Partisia Blockchain primarily solves data protection and interoperability. Working with Better Internet Search, we are gradually exploring various ways to personalize searches without compromising privacy. By using public and private smart contracts, Partisia Blockchain provides the infrastructure for maintaining the privacy of digital agents, which automatically brings the user data into play when necessary without revealing the data itself. For example, a search engine can be instructed to rank search results according to a user’s private preferences without the user sharing those preferences.
What advantages does a search engine operated by Partisia offer besides data protection?
Partisia Blockchain makes it possible to use the private data of the users without sharing this confidential information with others. This has the potential to turn the power structure in the internet economy on its head! Better Internet Search’s business model enables users to benefit from this controlled use of private information.
In terms of data protection, what are the advantages of Partisia over other methods of improving data protection?
Partisia Blockchain uses so-called zero knowledge calculation and Secure Multiparty Computation (MPC) in particular. This cutting edge technology enables a distributed set of computers to compute directly on encrypted data without knowing anything about the data involved in the computation, which enables computation without knowledge. The data is then protected in all possible states: at rest, during transport and during use. Traditional security measures do not allow this somewhat contradicting property; that a user can control his own data, even though it is used by a third party. This breakthrough integration solves one of the most pressing problems people face today: privacy.
What is special about Partisia’s collaboration with Better Internet Search?
We use advanced cryptography to remove the otherwise fundamental trade-off between data protection and personalization. To the best of our knowledge, no alternative project allows the use of private data to provide the same user-friendly experience as traditional non-data sharing services. This is one of the many ways that our platform is unique. The alternative to the current online advertising market based on tracking and connecting user data without user involvement is to offer services that limit tracking. While this is positive, it hinders the source of income that funds many services and reduces the ability to personalize those services. Part of the solution is to make the user a direct partner with a fair share of sales in the data economy. What we do offer, however, is a platform that eliminates that tradeoff by compensating users for using their data rather than sharing their data.
Can you give us an idea of how much computational effort is involved in using Partisia?
Compared to the calculation in plain text, the use of MPC is often associated with a considerable computational effort. Partisia is a pioneer in this area as we made the first commercial use of MPC in 2008 and since then the calculation has gotten a million times faster. Computational overhead is still a major challenge, however, and the way MPC and similar technologies are used must take this into account.
We’re working with Better Internet Search to develop an alternative that is both privacy-friendly and completely ad-free. This new alternative search engine does not use valuable processing power and bandwidth to serve ads to users, but instead uses advanced algorithms to prioritize the search results that searchers actually want. This offsets the computational overhead by prioritizing the processing power to run these algorithms.
Can Partisia also be used with other search engines such as Google or Bing to protect privacy?
We’d love to see companies like that join us and many others in prioritizing the protection of user privacy. It is overwhelmingly comforting to see viable alternatives like Better Internet Search emerging that focus on building user-centric models rather than just for-profit models. If you put the customer at the center of a project, you will get positive results in the long run and I strongly believe that more and more dominant players will adopt this technology as the debate about user privacy becomes more common.
How is blockchain technology affecting search engine marketing and SEO?
Adding data protection to the blockchain will have a profound impact on the advertising market. This technology offers significant performance to smaller advertisers and gives end users full sovereignty over their data and identities. Marketers or advertisers can take advantage of the high quality data they have access to, while data owners can be assured that their privacy is guaranteed. Today, the data market does not allow the user to profit monetarily even though owners of their data enjoy the profits from the end user’s data. We are very excited to partner with Better Internet Search to develop this alternative to the dominant business model and democratize data for the first time.