Areiel Wolanow – CTO and Technical Architect, Blok BioScience

Must I choose between my health and the security of my personal data? With ‘Track and trace’ buzzwords on everyone’s lips, there are suddenly a myriad of options popping up with the promise of rescuing us all from the clutches this pandemic. However, people’s natural cynicism and suspicion of these solutions are preventing any from having real impact, so are people right to be vigilant?

Is ‘Big Data’ the problem?

People are wary and mistrustful of ‘Big Data’ and rightly so. It has let them down in the past and comparisons such as ‘Cambridge Analytica’ still remain a part of the public consciousness.

As an example, in Singapore, only 25% or 1.4 million users of the country’s 5.6 million residents have downloaded the Government’s TraceTogether contact tracing app amidst fears of the authorities using the data for surveillance purposes.

This objection seems to be central to any debate over the ‘right’ way to monitor, learn and move forward out of this pandemic. And one that no single organisation or Governing body has been able to satisfactorily resolve. However, the fact remains that people knowingly or unknowingly consent to share their data daily. The 2.6 billion monthly active users who engage with Facebook as a platform agree for their data to be collected and shared in some capacity, and furthermore feel this is a fair transfer for the services provided.

So why is there such anxiety now? Is it because it features so heavily on the current news agenda? Is it because Governments are potentially the ones in control? Or is it because the collection of personal health records is a lot more intrusive than being shown relevant ads from third party businesses?

Do people know there is another way?

I feel that the answer is potentially two-fold. Firstly, we must accept the possibility that limited uptake to any solution may be due to apathy or a lack of clear guidance, but for people who are concerned with civil rights and data security they may also be unaware that there is an alternative way. People are wrestling with a choice that they do not necessarily need to make, and there is an education piece needed to explain that there are solutions available that support their right to individual ownership of data.

In my opinion all pandemic management solutions being developed currently should expect to come under attack and, furthermore, assume that any attempt at hacking will ultimately be successful. However, what we can do is to make it as difficult as possible, in order to minimise the frequency and severity of hacking attempts, as well as to discourage hackers by making it more time-consuming and expensive to breach our security measures. This cannot be an after-thought and the successful solution will ultimately be one that is built to eliminate any systemic risk and protect people’s data comprehensively.

My recent involvement working as part of BLOK BioScience involves the development of an end-to-end intelligent solution in response to the COVID-19 scenario and pivots around the concept of self-sovereign identity (SSI). Our ‘My Immunity Passport’ app provides a digital record of an individual’s antibody profile, reported symptoms and test history.

How does self-sovereignty work?

  • This information never leaves the individual’s phone and they remain in complete control of who they share it with and for what purpose. The user’s identity is verified through the onboarding process meaning they can attest to their immunity status to an employer or organisation without ever revealing any personal details.
  • There simply cannot be a centralised database as this immediately creates an inherent weakness. In the case of the Immunity Passport, if the app is hacked, this will result in a security breach for one individual, in the same way if someone loses their physical passport. Millions of records cannot be ‘at risk’ if this pool of data does not exist.
  • Another key element of SSI is that an individual has full visibility every time their data is shared. There is no ‘blanket’ consent that entitles your data to be used, stored, shared and sold within a specified time period. An individual should be asked every single time as standard and be able to see every transaction involving your data that occurs, even post-consent.
  • This sort of technology did not exist ten years ago and sets a new standard of what it means to ‘own your data’. This is exactly why we should be looking at successful test cases and expanding their capability to create a solution that is fit for purpose here.
  • In my role at Blok BioScience we are currently in discussions with businesses of all sizes on the best way to get their workforce back up and running, without compromising on the health or personal security of their employees and customers, and I feel that by empowering your employees, members or citizens to take ownership of their health and their data will encourage more people to buy in to a solution that moves us forward to the ‘new normal’ in the best way possible.

Areiel Wolanow

Areiel is an experienced business leader with over 25 years of experience in business transformation solutioning, sales, and execution. He served as one of IBM’s key thought leaders in blockchain, machine learning, and financial inclusion. Areiel has deep experience leading large, globally distributed teams; he has led programs of over 100 people through the full delivery life cycle, managing budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.

In addition to his delivery experience, Areiel also serves as a senior advisor on blockchain, machine learning, and technology adoption. He has addressed the G20 on financial inclusion, is currently an advisor to UK Parliament on blockchain, and has worked with central banks and financial regulators around the world.

Subject Matter Expertise:

Areiel has delivered working solutions in the following solution domains:

  • Blockchain
  • Machine Learning
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Agile/DevOps Adoption
  • Business Intelligence/Analytics
  • CRM

Blok BioScience

BLOK BioScience is part of the BLOK Group. With a network of Global experts and a robust and far-reaching supply chain, we provide trusted and authentic solutions to help respond to the rapidly changing population wellness landscape.

Our unique combination of medical and strategic expertise, and technical knowledge results in secure and compliant solutions for tracking and verifying immunity.