If you ask the majority of people about bitcoin, they would describe it as simply a digital currency.

However, those who understand its underlying blockchain technology know that it’s in fact a ledger of tamper-proof transactional data. This ledger isn’t owned by any single company or individual; rather, ownership is shared by every person who has ever made a transaction in bitcoin or any other kind of cryptocurrency.

The decentralized nature of blockchain makes it more secure than any existing government-regulated system. That’s especially critical in an age in which privacy has become an increasingly significant problem. Today, large Internet corporations monetize customer information through various forms of advertising solely for their own benefit and have maintained exclusive control over this data. Blockchain-based protocols allow customers to control and monetize their own personal data, empowering them in unprecedented ways.

Bitcoins
Bloomberg News

Blockchain offers a way for networks to securely obtain and share consumer preferences — for instance, letting your favorite stores know that you’re searching for deals on a pair of boots or that you’re in the market for a new TV — without compromising the personal information that you don’t want them to access, unless you personally authorize it. One way that blockchain is able to achieve this is through the use of private keys. Using private keys over blockchain, people can choose to authorize only select networks to obtain their personal data.

The use of smart contracts is another way that blockchain can safeguard customer privacy. Smart contracts are computer protocols that can facilitate, verify, and enforce specific terms of a contract by accessing external data feeds. This technology takes the place of an intermediary by ensuring that participating parties adhere to the laws of the transaction through the use of
smart contracts. In terms of retail, smart contracts ensure that all players operate under the same set of rules, preventing the possibility of malpractice.

The brick-and-mortar retail industry is one that can see significant benefits from the adoption of blockchain. In fact, blockchain could facilitate the creation of a system that would let brick-and-mortar retailers provide a personalized shopping experience to anyone who walks into their stores using data that the customers can willingly choose to share with retailers.

Still, the thought that retailers might be able to access your personal information can seem a bit invasive.That sentiment is only heightened by recent critical hacks of customer information, such as the recent Equifax breach that compromised the personal data of more than 143 million people.

However, with blockchain, potential customers can control exactly which parties are able to see their data,and even potentially monetize it when it’s coupled with a cryptocurrency-based economy. A blockchain-based system could notify customers when a retailer would like to access to their consumer data, and can choose to approve or deny authorization to them. As blockchain becomes increasingly popular, these heightened levels of data protection and customer awareness of its use have become a reality, and it will prove critical in ensuring that consumers are fully in control of the security and privacy of their own data.