Covid-19: How Can We Reopen Without Compromising Privacy?

We can create a queryable federated Coronavirus health data store that’s locally controlled and managed by providers ensuring privacy of the citizens. By solving the problem of data ownership, governance and privacy, we can truly enable interoperability we so desperately seek.

This is possible today using latest advances in encryption, data architectures, and query processing.

Everyone needs health & tracking data to make decisions

So many stakeholders have an interest in access to knowledge from the data.

  • Citizens need to fail safe as they go back to work, shopping or leisure.
  • Employers like airlines & hospitals need to know which of their employees are probably infected, or at high risk of complications if they contract it.
  • States & cities need to know which regions can be safely reopened. They need to be able to track & trace. They need visibility.
  • Healthcare providers need access to your medical history, and history of exposure/travel when you call in or show up at their premises.

However, we can’t just simply pool all of our citizens’ data and make it freely accessible to everyone of these entities. We are a constitutional democracy, and a nation of laws with civil rights.

A recent paper out this very month from Duke Center for Health Policy lays out the key challenges to achieving our goals in the context of our healthcare and government structure.

Here’s what we need to solve for:

Privacy: We need to protect our privacy while allowing the workflows like track & trace to be enabled, and analytics that predict risk to work.

Governance: We need controls in place so we know exactly who has access to what and why.

Interoperability: Our healthcare system is infamous for lack of interoperability. Books, papers, and billions of dollars have been wasted on this topic.

Federated and Distributed storage, yet Queryable

Here’s the good news. While privacy, governance, and interoperability of all the data in the context of all the scenarios involving our health may be intractable in the short term, it is entirely possible to solve the same challenges if we focus on only one problem — Coronavirus — and move aggressively.

How would it all work?

The core idea is fairly simple: allow various stakeholders to retain control of the data while enabling federated data collaboration using privacy-preserving technologies like multi-party computations, homomorphic encryption, etc.

In stead of bringing all the data to some centralized warehouse — an approach that keeps failing, we propose a radically new fully decentralized architecture.

Next Steps

We are engaged with a select group of healthcare providers, senior government officials, and healthcare experts. If you would like to collaborate on this with us, drop me a line.