Dawn Song, a UC Berkeley electrical engineering and computer sciences professor and CEO of data startup Oasis Labs, has made it her goal to protect personal information in the digital age.
Song seeks to provide a security and privacy system when it comes to computer systems. The primary goal of Oasis Labs, which was founded in 2018, is to give clients the ability to control their personal data, making them feel more in control of what they put online, according to Head of Marketing at Oasis Labs Anne Fauvre-Willis.
“Our goal is to build a better internet—one where users are in control and innovation is not bound by locked data silos. Today users have no idea how their data is used, companies run the risk of leaking sensitive information,” Fauvre-Willis said in an email. “Combining blockchain and privacy technologies can help to uniquely solve this problem: blockchain offers an opportunity for users to retain data ownership; and privacy technologies allows data to be used at scale without risking the privacy of that data.”
With the world moving deeper into the digital age, these matters have become more pressing than ever before, according to Fauvre-Willis.
Campus junior and co-president of Blockchain at Berkeley Gloria Zhao added that the significance of personal data has been highlighted by various high profit companies that use customers’ data, such as those in the retail industry.
“Knowing what you search and consume makes it easy to sell products to you,” Zhao said in an email.
Ethically, there is a “bare minimum threshold for respecting people’s privacy,” according to Zhao. Health data is protected the most thoroughly by regulations, but Zhao said in the email that she is hopeful that people will begin to be more protective about other things as well.
The company’s foundations are based on the concept of “differential privacy,” according to Fauvre-Willis. Zhao explained in the email that this type of privacy can be compared to a security model separated in different layers, such as asking for virtual signatures to provide basic security and tracking activity in a specific geographical location. The company is given the ability to use “specific keystrokes” anonymously and guarantees the protection of the user’s data points, according to Fauvre-Willis.
“The sad thing is that while we’ve built more ‘unsinkable’ ships than the Titanic, the ocean’s icebergs don’t really get more advanced,” Zhao said in the email. “In the security world, new attack vectors arise just as quickly as security mechanisms do. It’s a moving target.”
According to Zhao, the government is only held accountable for transparency about their data policies. She added that all governmental applications lay out their company’s policy, and it’s best to choose the ones users feel safe and agree with, as well as avoid companies that state they have “all rights to your data,” Zhao said in the email.
“Ultimately what we’re building can offer the best of both worlds,” Fauvre-Willis said in the email. “It can empower companies to better utilize data at scale to create innovative new solutions in the market, while giving users the control and ability to monetize that data on their own terms.”