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What Airbnb's Blockchain Authentication Proposal Means For Online Privacy ( 44

An anonymous reader writes: Nathan Blecharcyzk, one of the co-founders at home rental platform Airbnb, has detailed the company's interest in blockchain technologies to help establish user reputation and trust. He revealed that in 2016 Airbnb would be looking into blockchain integration, or a similar distributed ledger system, to authenticate a user's reputation and establish trust on the platform. The proposal marks a potentially revolutionary step for e-commerce sites and peer opinion platforms looking to identify and filter out damaging reviews planted by competitors and trolls, or self-promoting posts which can mislead consumers. However, while protecting the integrity of some, the introduction of a blockchain-based reputation system holds a potential threat to anonymity and privacy online. A distributed and irreversible system for trust management, which stores personal data, could offer a hotbed for doxing and identity theft – and even undermine an individual's right to be forgotten.
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What Airbnb's Blockchain Authentication Proposal Means For Online Privacy

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  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @04:32PM (#51667949)

    Right to be forgotten...I can see the Slashdot rebellion against this article already.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Exactly. The concept is bullshit. But I'm sure these people would be the first to crowdfund the neuralyzer (flashy thingy), and make it a mandatory installation on all displays.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ultimately, you only have the rights you can enforce yourself. Assuming you want such a thing, good luck enforcing global erasure of information. -PCP

    • by Skewray ( 896393 )

      Right to be forgotten...I can see the Slashdot rebellion against this article already.

      Why? There is no such thing as a right to be forgotten. We don't rebel against Santa Claus, do we?

      • by ADRA ( 37398 )

        Money isn't real but we believe in it. I think people would revolt if the US gov decided to abandon money tomorrow. All rights are given by powers that be. There are no natural rights besides maybe the right to die (even then, most societies have fought hard against it).

        • If rights are not given, except by man, then Slavery is perfectly fine as long as those enslaving are in power. Tyranny becomes a right of the powerful.

          • by ADRA ( 37398 )

            What is 'a right' and what are morally/ethically 'right' are very different.

            Talking naturally, there is slavery, abuse, murder and a billion other bad things that happen which would happen if mankind or society is involved or not. These things only become morally or ethically bad when one (or many) deem it so. Today the EU decided that being forgotten is a right. At some point in the very recent future people -decided- privacy was a right. Maybe in the future, society will consider it a right to have both C

            • morally/ethically 'right' are very different.

              Depends on whose morals you're supporting. I'm sure you don't agree with the morals of the WBC do you?

              Again, who gets to decide which morals are acceptable? The people with the power. This is how cutting off heads becomes acceptable moral stance.

              1) Capitals Punishment doesn't violate natural laws, any more than locking people up in jail does. They are however, responses to people who violate certain civil laws, and held in check by other laws designed to make sure they are applied only when needed.

              2) Animal

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It exists in the EU, where businesses store data about or belonging to you. It doesn't affect individuals remembering things or writing about their memories, obviously.

        The right even exists to some extent in the US. There are rules governing what credit agencies can report about you, for example, and some things must eventually be forgotten by them. Purged from their records, no longer reported to customers asking for ratings. It's just much stronger in the EU.

    • Right to be forgotten...I can see the Slashdot rebellion against this article already.

      What I find interesting in those who want a "right to be forgotten" and for it to be enforced beyond their borders also complain when some other country does things online or with data, that is perfectly legal under there laws, that impact their citizens. This of course, is not unique to the 'right to be forgotten' or any particular country or jurisdiction; all are equally hypocritical in that regard.

    • Why? The right to privacy is one thing. Establishing credible and traceable reviews are another. I am a huge proponent of privacy and the 4th A (the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures) but that doesn't mean that one can lie and cheat and get away and not get called on it.
    • You have a right to be forgotten for crimes, not for statements.

  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @04:47PM (#51668023)

    What AirBnB really needs is a Trust network - if they implement it on top of a blockchain, then they'll need a blockchain maintenance infrastructure, but either way, they need to establish a Trust network.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @05:08PM (#51668175)

      This is all overkill. They just need to ONLY allow reviews for properties from customers that have actually PAID to stay at that property. Each reviewer would have an indicator of how many nights they have paid for and how many reviews they have made. Simple, effective, and understandable.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's a good step forward, but not sufficient.
        Apparently a common pattern with fraudsters offering rentals via ABNB is to cancel someone's reservation at the last minute (presumably because they got a better offer and didn't want to honor the commitment). When you've taken the time off from work, made all the arrangements, booked plane tickets, etc... a last minute cancellation can be quite unsettling.
        There's feedback to be provided even if you don't go through with the payment, and that makes it a bit compl

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          But that could also be negated pretty easily by introducing penalty clauses for last minute cancellations.

        • The last minute cancellation (and we've experienced this on other networks, not just AirBnB) would be pretty easily revealed in stats:

          1) How many vendor initiated cancellations?

          2) How close to time of arrival?

          3) How pissed were the cancelled customers?

          Of course, you'll expect most cancelled customers to be pissed, but if a vendor initiates more than one cancellation per 2 or 3 years or 300 rentals, I'd start to question their sincerity regarding early reservations on high demand days. If the cancelled cust

  • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @05:03PM (#51668143)

    What are you, kidding? You have no real anonymity. AirBNB, Uber, your wireless carrier, and police license plate scanning databases already contain more than enough information about you to assemble your life fairly accuracy if you, for example, use vehicles. What you have is a thin veneer of anonymity that reduces the chance you will be held to account for online statements that nobody bothers to sue or prosecute you for.

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      I also wonder how your suppose to stay at someone else house anonymously, or hop in someone else car while they are driving it? I guess you could were a paper bag or something.

      Anonymity doesn't make sense for somethings. Airbnb is one of em.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's becoming increasingly necessary to have multiple identities. At a minimum use different pseudonyms on each web site (mine is only used on Slashdot, beware impersonators!), but it's worth doing in real life too now. It's really easy to set up too, as most places don't check your name is real when ordering stuff, and the places that do consider letters and bills with the fake name on to be sufficient evidence.

      If one persona gets screwed up you can simply kill it off. For example, unsubscribing from some

  • Shocked (Score:4, Informative)

    by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @05:16PM (#51668209)

    I am shocked, shocked I say, that a system intended to "establish user reputation" might be incompatible with anonymity, privacy, and a right to be forgotten.

    It's almost as if one is expected to build a reputation, be accountable to that reputation, and tolerate discussion of that reputation by others in order to foster relationships more wide ranging than "I know this guy" friend-of-friend contacts.

    In a business where trust is a key factor, Blecharcyzk suggested that the site could require higher levels of reputation from users in order to access more exclusive types of accommodation.

    Yes, because I'm not going to permit johnsmith_2016 to have the run of my (hypothetical) million dollar furnished house while I'm away for two weeks, whether AirBnB provides insurance or not. Even in a more modest place like my own, insurance is a poor substitute for damaged or destroyed items of sentimental value.

  • I don't know enough about blockchain to understand it, I guess. Who says you have to put personal data in the block chain? Can't you just (simplifying grossly) put user_ids, or something, in there instead? These then link to your Airbnb profile, which you can kill at any time.

    Or does this just shuffle trust issues around without actually addressing them?

    As I say, I'm not even clear on how using a blockchain helps anything. If someone posts a bad review, what stops it getting added to the blockchain? (if tha

    • A blockchain ledger relies on their being lots of nodes to maintain the ledger along with a mechanism to produce consensus. I think their idea is to produce something that could be used across all sorts of other "sharing economy" services and not just AirBnB. That is kind of the only way the idea would work using blockchains as AirBnB shouldn't control all of the nodes. I don't think the point is to avoid bad reviews, but to establish some level of trust in the source of the reviews. I'm largely speculatin
  • The proposal marks a potentially revolutionary step for e-commerce sites and peer opinion platforms looking to identify and filter out damaging reviews planted by competitors and trolls, or self-promoting posts which can mislead consumers.

    Preliminary tests [] at Airbnb have shown that the system was filtering out Airbnb itself. Technical teams are currently trying to fix this issue, but so far their attempts have been unsuccessful.

  • The whole point of a blockchain is that multiple nodes are maintained by different entities, so that no single party can alter it. That works for a cryptocurrency, because its users have a vested interest in keeping their investment secure. They will go to the expense and effort of running a full node, to keep everyone else honest.

    But who is going to host AirBnB's blockchain? The only party who would have any incentive to do so is AirBnB. And if AirBnB is the only keeper of the blockchain, what prevents

    • Am I missing something here, or is this yet another example of "ooh, this technology sounds neat, let's take this hammer and see how many things look like nails"?

      When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a skull.

  • I go on to ask about blockchain technology, which can help build trust in a given network by underlying it with an immutable database. "I think that, within the context of Airbnb, your reputation is everything, and I can see it being even more so in the future, whereby you might need a certain reputation order to have access to certain types of homes. But then the question is whether there's a way to export that and allow access elsewhere to help other sharing economy models really flourish. We're looking for all different kinds of signals to tell us whether someone is reputable, and I could certainly see some of these more novel types of signals being plugged into our engine."

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.