Blocktrend Today’s Q&A With Bitmark CEO Sean
A few months ago, our CEO Sean did an interview with Astro Hsu for Astro’s publication Blocktrend Today. Astro is Taiwan’s top blockchain writer and influencer who has thousands of paid subscribers for his blockchain Chinese newsletters. Below is the English translation of that interview:
Bitmark is an independent public blockchain. Its biggest difference with other blockchains is that Bitmark has not issued its own cryptocurrency, however, it does use bitcoin to reward miners. Users can also use it to issue music, business cards, and other digital files. In 2017 Bitmark received support from Alibaba’s Taiwan Entrepreneur Fund.
In this interview, we’ll be talking with Bitmark CEO Sean Moss-Pultz. He is also responsible for guiding HTC Blockchain Phone Exodus 1’s technology and data R&D.
Sean is an American, and is married to a Taiwanese woman, with whom he speaks Chinese and English. This interview was conducted in both Chinese and English.
Astro: We’ll start with the simplest, yet most difficult question to answer, okay? In terms of everyday life, what are Blockchain’s biggest use cases?
Sean: As many physical things are being digitized, people to people interactions are becoming “less warm”. Blockchain can bring back this warmth.
Half a year ago Pochang Wu gave me one of his CDs. I then went and bought a new CD player for the occasion, and listened with my son. Physical CDs are special. If you don’t use physical CDs, it’s really hard for us to wrap music and gift it to friends. Of course in the era of streaming, we can gift KKBOX gift cards, but it’s just not the same. With CDs, people can feel like they’re getting a special gift. But with gift cards it just doesn’t have that special significance, it’s not something you can really collect.
Blockchain allows us to create a sense of gift giving in the era of digital music, so that music can be collected again.
Astro: Bringing about the feeling of giving gifts by hand, but in the digital world, that sounds very abstract. How can blockchain do this?
Sean: With blockchain, you can really easily trace back something’s origin. People who obtain music not only know who originally published the files, but also know who has transferred the files. If your music was given to you directly by the producer and without any middleman, then this is just like getting an autograph, it’s very meaningful.
Astro: Perhaps later when getting an important person’s business card, people might screenshot its blockchain transfer record and share it on social media to show off. This could be the feeling of “gift delivery by hand” in the digital world. In that way, what does Bitmark use blockchain to do?
Sean: Bitmark built its own blockchain, and uses it to register people’s digital property rights. It’s slightly similar to an intellectual property office. Before, we could only duplicate or share digital assets. Now we can finally allow people to formally authorize the use of their digital property if they have a clear record of digital data’s provenance and transfer history.
Bitmark and KKBOX’s subsidiary (KKFARM) digital publication platform are collaborating to bring digital property registration to music publishing software. As paperwork digitizes, efficiency will improve and producers will also receive compensation more quickly.
Now, Bitmark is also collaborating with HTC to allow consumers to register their data under their names.
Astro: Producers often want to authorize music, using blockchain to digitize the process, that’s easy to understand. However, what’s the use of Bitmark allowing consumers to register their data under their names? Is it also to authorize information?
Sean: The Cambridge Analytica scandal happened in 2018, Facebook apologized and was fined. But consumers didn’t receive any of Facebook’s reparations because the consumer data was certainly not their own to begin with.
Consumers provide their data in exchange for Facebook’s services, and Facebook ought to satisfactorily fulfill their data management responsibility. However, just who really owns the data has no clear boundary. Consumers and Facebook both say they own the data.
The same situation happens in hospitals. Do medical records actually belong to hospitals or patients? I think people should confront this problem, and blockchain is what we can use to solve it.
In the future, consumers just have to take one more measure — registering their data under their own name — and things can become very different. Accordingly, data property rights will have no room for uncertainty, and will be convenient to authorize.
Now that data property rights belong to consumers, only authorizing enterprises can use it, one can assume some enterprises who experience data breaches will necessarily have to pay consumers reparations. It’s just like if a bank gets hacked and sustains losses, they must necessarily repay depositors the same.
Astro: Do you think companies will have to buy or rent data from consumers, and won’t be like how currently they directly take and use it? Likewise, how can consumers register data under their own name?
Sean: Data is an important digital asset, and now everybody knows that data can be used to make money. So data has to be similar to copyrights or land in that property rights and ways to authorize should all be clearly defined.
In the past nobody did this, because at the time there wasn’t any blockchain technology. People had no way to register their data bit by bit, and because of this data property rights are entirely controversial, every party thinks data should be theirs, and in the end companies like Facebook and Google have the advantage.
Bitmark blockchain helps register all kinds of digital property rights. We are going to embed our services into an HTC phone, and all data output will be immediately registered to consumers. Consumers won’t think there’s any change, but these data property rights will register themselves.
In the future, there will be more and more research institutions and enterprises that want to purchase data from consumers. Besides HTC’s phone, Bitmark is also collaborating with KKBOX to allow producers to authorize music. In the healthcare sphere, we are going to directly embed into health apps or hospitals’ systems. If institutions have research demands, they just have to get paid or unpaid authorization from consumers.
Astro: I originally wanted to ask: if the market has more than 1000 different kinds of blockchains, how are people supposed to choose the best one or the best suitable blockchain for them? Now it seems like this question is just asked as a counter. People certainly aren’t taking the initiative to go choose which blockchain to use, but people might have no idea what blockchain they are using, because blockchain is quietly sneaking into everybody’s devices and apps, right?
Sean: Right. Blockchain is an underlying technology, people won’t know which blockchain their underlying technology uses, just like people usually don’t know whether the chips in their own phones are actually manufactured by TSMC or Samsung.
Even though we’re collaborating with HTC, KKBOX, or other health apps, blockchain will slowly make its way into people’s daily lives through these companies.
Astro: When consumers first register a lot of data on the Bitmark blockchain, will there be any privacy issues?
Sean: This is a common misperception. Consumers aren’t giving their data to Bitmark, instead, they’re just registering their data’s property rights on the Bitmark blockchain. Consider that it’s like a random hash appearing as data, there are no privacy issues. It’s just like land management bureau registering land property rights, you’re just giving them your property rights information, and the bureau doesn’t own your land.
In the future, data will exist on consumers’ phones, or in companies’ data centers, however, it won’t be on Bitmark blockchain in that way. Protecting the genuine security of this data is extremely important, but this is already beyond the scope of Bitmark’s control.
Astro: Everybody is looking for suitable situations to use blockchain. Currently, do the companies Bitmark is collaborating with have anything in common with each other?
Sean: They’ve all encountered problems due to the lack of clarity surrounding digital property rights. Corporations will do whatever they can to own data for themselves, but data is generated by consumers. Bitmark helps consumers register data’s digital property rights, and creates a platform for exchanging data, allowing consumers to authorize its use, thus establishing a completely new data trade standard.
Astro: This is the last question. When do you think blockchain will be universally used?
Sean: Even I don’t know. This is just like asking a newly hatched chick “when did you think you were going to hatch?” The chick just knows that it always wants to hatch, but it doesn’t know when it will.
This interview essentially did not discuss cryptocurrency. However, it is still very worthwhile to solely discuss pure use cases of blockchain.
Bitmark blockchain helps people establish property rights over their digital assets, coinciding with HTC’s blockchain phone to “let go of data.” After consumers own their data property rights, the next immediate question will be one of authorizing data.
This is an important milestone. In the future when companies want to use users’ data they will need permission and will have to pay compensation. Because of this, Sean also predicts that in the future there will exist data commercial agents, who are responsible for matching companies and consumers. On one hand, this will help enterprises obtain authorization and conduct payments as well as help consumers find the buyers who are most in accordance with their needs, for example finding the highest prices and values.
Furthermore, this also can produce impact against today’s tech giants. Whether it’s for Facebook or Google, to them data is a golden hen, and they won’t want to give it up overnight. This is the inventor’s dilemma. Because of this, tech giants might not go with the new generation’s flow. On the contrary, the governments that currently do not rely on consumers’ data to make money or the startups that don’t have data can extend both arms and embrace the new trends.
The beginning of the revolution, perhaps might be the moment of blockchain phone’s emergence and that small group of users. Phones are what people spend most of their time on, and the influence that blockchain’s entering the realm of phones will not be limited to managing cryptocurrencies, but can also allow people to more conveniently manage their own data rights.
Subtly applying Bitmark’s technology to devices and applications is the next key step towards giving power back to the people.
Here is a link for the original publication (in Chinese): https://blocktrend.today/03-12-2019-interview-bitmark-ceo-sean-moss-pultz
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