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How blockchain can back PoPI

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Blockchain is built for protecting information, one of its major selling points. But VISHAL BARAPATRE – Chief Technical Officer at In2IT Technologies, asks what effect the PoPI act have on it.

The Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act is looming on our horizon. South African organisations are busily preparing for it despite there still being much debate about what the real impact will be and whether or not it will be truly effective. However, one thing is certain, a legislation that protects personal information (that is, any information relating to an identifiable, living person) is necessary, and any technology which could support PoPI within the business should be seriously considered.

One technology that seems purposefully built for protecting information is the blockchain. Although one of the selling points of blockchain technology is its inherent transparency, it certainly has effective security measures. This begs the question, could the transparency of blockchain technology conflict with the regulations that PoPI lays out, or does it add another mechanism for compliancy?

The blockchain, and PoPI compliancy

With the implementation of PoPI, organisations will need to be more sensitive around the privacy of their customers’ information – or be penalised. To do so, they will have to be more organised around the storage, use and dissemination of this data so as not to overstep the bounds of PoPI, and to take care of their customers’ privacy. There needs to be a level of ‘proof’ of where the data is kept, how it is used and who has access to it at any given time. This requirement fits in with the purpose of the blockchain: to provide a verifiable record of any data transaction, including who accesses the said data.

The blockchain is a shared digital transactional ledger that securely records and regularly reconciles transactions of virtually anything of value. Therefore, Blockchain provides accurate traceability and in turn, promotes accountability. Essentially, what the blockchain does for data storage is provide ratified certainty that all the due diligences have been conducted around a piece of data, and a means for recourse should data be unlawfully used or accessed.

There is also the security factor, which appeals to compliancy requirements of PoPI. The blockchain offers unparalleled security features, given its multi-verification nature and tamper proof mechanism of protecting already verified data. If current trends are anything to go by, the blockchain will only get more secure, which makes it ideal for use as a potentially impenetrable storage mechanism.

Any concerns?

The question around transparency still exists. Surely a platform that specifically highlights transparency as a benefit automatically precludes it from being suitable for an act which stresses the protection of a person’s privacy? Not necessarily…

A blockchain can be programmed with certain pre-defined rules, or permissible actions, around what may be done with any piece of personal information, based on the type of information it is. Although the information may be visible to anyone with access to the blockchain on which it sits, these parameters automatically create alerts when certain data is accessed, used, or disseminated in any way that falls outside their bounds.

Granted, there is still the risk that the data may be accessed by unauthorised individuals, but the organisation will be alerted and can take immediate action. The blockchain provides verifiable proof of who accessed the data illegally, for what reason, and what was done with the data. It can then be raised with the PoPI regulator, if required, or can take internal action, as desired (or as required by policy and/or law).

The only real grey area with using the blockchain for complying with data storage, is that there will exist a permanent, in-erasable record of the data, indefinitely. PoPI does define that an organisation must honour an individual’s request for their data to be removed once it is no longer in use. The immutability of the blockchain could prove a problem, nevertheless an organisation still retains control of who may or may not access the data, and could exercise that control to ensure that the data remains all but invisible for its lifespan.

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Inside Netflix: Quest for content will sweep Africa

In the second of a series of behind-the-scenes reports from Netflix studios, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers an appetite for new stories.

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It may have started out as a better way to rent movies, but now Netflix is revolutionising the entire American film and TV industries. That’s not news. The next big shift, however, is likely to be the transformation of content production worldwide, and Africa is squarely in the Netflix sights.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, chief product officer Greg Peters said that South Africa and Nigeria were among the many key markets in which it expected to make significant investments in content.

Greg Peters at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re looking to increasingly find storytellers from around the world, especially ones who haven’t been able to tell the story they want because traditional production partners are not willing to tell it, or they can’t find a big enough audience,” he said.

“Our job is to provide a platform, both a production platform, and then a distribution platform, because we are really good at finding audiences that are much much bigger than any storyteller has ever been able to find before. We’re going to invest in every part of the world, including Africa.”

Peters emphasised the need for fresh stories, as opposed to those that repeated traditionally popular formulae.

“We feel like it’s exciting that we don’t have a lot of restrictions. We want compelling stories, a strong vision, authentic story telling, that can come from a whole different range of formats. To open up storytelling in ways that was not opened before.”

Peters was speaking at the end of a two-day Netflix event called Labs Day, which exposed a small group of media from around the world to the inner workings of the business.

Peters revealed that, when he joined Netflix in 2008, he was just one of eight people working on streaming. At that stage, the company was making most of its money from distributing movies on DVD through the mail, with subscriptions and orders managed entirely on the Web.

Click here to read about how Netflix was founded, what it meant to competitors, and what Netflix means to traditional pay-TV.

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Apple unveils TV+ and News+ subscription service

Apple’s video streaming service is set to launch in over 100 countries in the second half of this year, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Late to the premium video streaming game, Apple has unveiled its video streaming platform called Apple TV+.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced yesterday that the service will feature Apple Original content, along with a redesigned Apple TV app that integrates major TV streaming platforms like Hulu and HBO directly into the Apple TV app.

In maintaining the company’s premium image, Cook claims the service will be the “destination for the highest-quality originals”. He backed the statement by handing over to multi-Oscar winning director Steven Speilberg who led the company’s “The Storyteller’s Behind” video. The video below shows off big Hollywood names, including J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Aniston, M. Night Shyamalan, Octavia Spencer, Reese Witherspoon, endorsing TV Plus.

Speilberg announced he would be bringing the 93-year-old Amazing Stories book series to TV on Apple’s streaming service. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell discussed their involvement in a predominantly women-hosted Morning Show that deals with “issues that are spoken about behind closed doors”. The stage was filled with major TV personalities, including Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Big Bird (Sesame Street), and even Oprah.

Apple still has some catching up to do, because Netflix has already spent billions on acquiring and creating new content in 2019 alone.

In a move to remain competitive, subscribers to the service will have access to Apple TV+ through the new Apple TV app on iOS, Mac, Roku, Fire TV, and smart TVs from Samsung and LG, among other.

But will this service be sustainable for Apple in an already saturated market? Mark Skilton, professor of practice at Warwick Business School, said: “Apple TV is not just about seeking a new growth market, it is about a technical shift to “connected smart services” of the future that offer everything online.

“But is Apple going to beat Netflix? Even if they roll out the red carpet for movie stars, it will be a challenge for Apple to provide a compelling new TV experience.”

The service is set to launch in over 100 countries by the end of the year.

Click here to read about Apple News+.

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