Over the past few weeks, Facebook has been raked over the coals in the press and U.S. Congress for practices that are hard to regard as anything short of evil. In essence, the company allegedly knew for years that its algorithms were pointing users to content that was harmful in a variety of ways, but did nothing, because change would mean losing money.
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If you’ve ever used your Facebook account to log into another service online, you’ve been helping the social network make your online experience more toxic, even if you’re not a user of Facebook.com itself. Or maybe you do much the same using Google or Apple identity services. All involve major trade-offs – like possibly having your data shared with U.S. intelligence.
It’s one of the core quandaries of today’s internet. While the ‘net’s inherent anonymity is definitely a good thing, it leaves users of ID-reliant tools in thrall to major centralized identity providers and their seemingly inevitable abuses. Blockchain developers have long talked about developing “decentralized” identity standards to save us from the dangers of Big Login, and at least one significant step towards that future appears imminent: Sign-in With Ethereum is coming.
It’s just what it sounds like: a standard way to use an Ethereum wallet that you own as an identifier across multiple services. If your first thought is, “my name isn’t even attached to my ETH wallet,” that’s exactly the point: Using a cryptographic marker as an identity means the user, not the identity provider, has total control over what information is associated with it. Eventually, you’ll be able to decide, for instance, whether a particular service needs your name, proof of your age, or a glimpse of your ETH balance. You won’t have to send all that information to every service you use.