The best, and really the only place to start a conversation about my work is to explain some of the values I hold most closely, which are fundamental to every project I undertake. Here are just a few:
- Identity is a fundamental human right
- As the world becomes more digital, we face threats like the commodification of personal data, cybersecurity risks, and privacy concerns
- Though technology opens us up to risks and can be used to cause harm, harnessed properly, the capacity for it to do good outweighs the negatives.
The translation of these values is visible in many places, but perhaps most fundamentally in my work with blockchain technologies. Blockchain allows the storage of information through systems that embody two essential characteristics: transparency and immutability.
The Humanized Internet looks to capitalize on these qualities to “defend the rights of vulnerable people, and give every human being worldwide secure, sovereign control over their own digital identity.”
Think about how many things in your life require proof of identity. Just consider dealing with the healthcare system, the financial system, employment opportunities, the education system, and much more. Identifying documents are also necessary to prove credentials, whether it’s a license to operate a motor vehicle, to open a business, or to practice law and medicine. The necessity of immutability here is self-explanatory. You do not want this fundamental information to be susceptible to alteration, either by the owner in an attempt to engage in some sort of fraud, or by an outside, predatory party.
The second quality, transparency, is what allows us to ensure the validity and utility of this information. To be clear, transparency does not mean a lack of security. It means that the information can be shared, when and how the owner chooses to. Moreover, it is intrinsically related to immutability. The fact that the information cannot be changed guarantees the transparency of the party offering the data or information. Blockchain allows us to create a system that is, by upholding these two essential qualities, fully secure and able to protect personal data.
The protection of individual identity is not the only application for technology like this. Through my work with Syniverse, we are creating a system that provides a single source of truth in clearing and settling processes, enabling not only trust and security in all transactions but efficient and fair dispute resolutions. The applications for use in other transparent public transactions are limitless.
Also, along with Syniverse, we are working on ways to allow for transparency without disclosure through Zero-Knowledge Proofs. Many of us have likely been in a situation where some third party has shared a secret, and each of the initial two parties are dancing around the topic trying to see whether or not they will be betraying a confidence by discussing what they know. A zero-knowledge proof is a way out of that situation: it’s a way to prove to the other party that you know something without having to disclose that you know it. The impact of such potential, of course, extends far beyond attempts to avoid spreading gossip.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential for blockchain, and I’m excited to see where we will take it next.