Q: Why is big tech bad and decentralization good?

There is currently no way for consumers to check whether or not their data protections are actually being upheld. A normal person cannot prance into FB or Google’s data centres after the submission of a GDPR deletion request to check that their data was actually deleted. They need to rely on a centralized authority like the US government to have someone go in to audit for them. Decentralization is good because through the use of open infrastructure, something like the data removal can be audited by anyone. Data removal and compliance with data regulations are just one specific example, of course.

Q: Why does data ownership even matter? Why should I be concerned that FB or Google have all this data on me?

The concern doesn’t come from the data being collected on just you as an individual. It’s in aggregate where it can make a big impact. Facebook and Google have so much data on the general population that on the individual level it surfaces information and content that we think we want but it gives us an illusion of agency in the choices we make, whether it’s political or consumer. The best kind of advertising is when the subject doesn’t know that they’re being advertised to, yet they’re making behavioural changes.

If decentralization is the way to go, what’s the business case for decentralization? How do you make a lot of money? Let’s just speak about the concept broadly and not talk about specific assets like BTC.

Sure. What BTC gave us is a method of achieving massive consensus in a distributed fashion on a set of truths about the world, namely the wallet balances of all peers on a p2p network. What Ethereum gave us is the ability to create consensus on not just wallet balances, but the state of anything in the world that could be derived from some computation, through smart contracts.

Ethereum also gave a platform for creating assets out of anything, and it doesn't have to be currency. An example of such is a token which symbolizes ownership of a particular piece of user data. It's very clear that user data is very valuable - allowing the markets to determine the price of that data and enabling the monetization of such an asset at the individual level could create a lot of value.

Currently the price of that piece of data is set through a closed auction process between a centralized network such as Facebook and third-party advertising networks. And this is just the advertising case. I think you want to talk about it more broadly. More broadly, a party that builds up such a network which allows for decentralization can capture some of the value of their work by tokenizing the governance of their network.