Confidential Computing Redefines Decentralization

This article was first published on @iotex - Medium

“We have long been able to protect data at rest and in-transit with end-to-end encryption. But running code on that data required decryption — slicing open a gaping security hole that meant personal data was manipulatable by the third party that controlled the code. Confidential computing protects data in use for the first time by cordoning off a black box within the CPU that decrypts, computes on, and re-encrypts data so privately that not even the local operating system knows what’s happening. This is confidential computing.”

Every blockchain company worth its salt claims to be decentralized in one way or another. While decentralization is a protean term, there is one meaning that cuts to the bone of the concept: Decentralization means giving individuals power over the code that processes their data.

It’s counter-intuitive, but having control of the code that processes your data is arguably even more important than controlling the data itself. To quote Andreas Antonopoulos:

“If you control the code, you control where the data is being processed. It, therefore, doesn’t matter if the data is decentralized at first; it will eventually centralize to the place where it’s processed and manipulated.”

The internet was a web of self-hosted websites in the fetal days of the mid-90s. The facebook before Facebook was running a server out of your house that hosted a web-page with your bio on it. The early internet was decentralized because everyone controlled the code that ran their website.

Most new networks start out decentralized before an organizing institution coalesces power. This holds true for political factions as well as computer networks. To join a network while it is still decentralized often means becoming a pariah. In 1995 Bill Gates went on the Letterman show where Dave said: “I think one of these days I’ll get one of ...

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