From Short and Sweet AI, I’m Dr. Peper, and today I want to talk with you about personal data as private property.
You and I know that social media platforms and internet sites we visit are collecting data on us. We know they’re selling our data to advertisers. I mean, that’s their business model. They provide a platform for us to connect with each other and we give them our personal data as payment. Data is valuable. Data is the new oil. It brings in billions of dollars of income for Google, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and countless other companies. When we’re online and we click on a pop-up that says “accept”, we’re essentially giving away our personal information to that company. And do we really have a choice? You either have to accept the terms or you’re not allowed to use that site.
Well, what if we could be paid for our data, what if we could determine who gets data about what sites we visit, what apps we use on our phones, what physical locations we go to, what conversations we have, basically what if we could be paid for all the information companies are gathering on us now on a daily basis. And what if we had a system that only provides our data to who we say with great privacy protection using the security of a block chain type technology. Enter Professor Dawn Song and her company Oasis and we are one step closer to that reality.
Professor Song is considered to be one of the world’s expert on computer security. She is a Mac Arthur “genius’ recipient and a professor at UC Berkley. Much of her work is in the area of machine learning which I’ve talked about in a previous podcast and in adversarial AI. Adversarial AI is the study of how computer systems are hacked to transmit the wrong information.
While still a graduate student at Berkeley, her research drew attention for showing machine learning algorithms can infer what someone is typing. She showed hackers could use software to figure out someone’s password from the timing of their keystrokes picked up by eavesdropping on a network. Professor Song and her students were also the first to demonstrate that computer vision can be fooled. She applied a few benign looking stickers to a stop sign. As a result a driverless vehicle identified the sign as a 40 mile per hour speed limit sign instead of recognizing it as a stop sign and continued through an intersection without stopping.
She began by showing that a lot of these machine learning algorithms have weaknesses and she became passionate about people having control over their personal data. Her expertise in machine learning, computer security, and blockchain gave birth to Oasis Labs. She describes Oasis as a privacy-first, cloud computing platform on blockchain. She is creating technology which empowers users to protect their personal information, to decide who can use it, and to get paid for their data.
Through a program with Stanford Medical School, patients can use the Oasis platform to decide who to share their medical data with and to get paid when it’s used. They agree to have scans of their retina and other medical data shared privately through a blockchain type application on the Oasis platform. And then researchers use this information to train computers to recognize eye diseases. Meanwhile Nebula, a genomics company, is jumping onboard and has integrated with Oasis to give users control of their personal genomic data.
Professors Song’s vision for the future is for people to have a revenue stream from their personal information. It may not be a lot on a monthly basis but could contribute to retirement savings as companies pay for using your data over your lifetime. As she says “Today, companies are taking users’ data and essentially using it as a product: they monetize it. The world can be very different if this is turned around and users maintain control of the data and get revenue from it.”
This is a really revolutionary idea. Professor Song has created an internet platform which uses blockchain technology to give us the ability to control our data and earn an income from it. Personal data as private property, I think it’s time.
If you like these flash talks, please leave a review and subscribe. From Short and Sweet AI, I’m Dr. Peper