Personal Data as Private Property

You and I know that the social media platforms and internet sites we visit collect data on us. In many ways, they monetize our data and use it as a product that can be purchased.

Is it about time we regained control of our data and found new and better ways to protect it?

In this episode of Short and Sweet AI, I talk about personal data as private property and whether there is a way for us to choose who gets to use our data.

Listen to this episode of Short and Sweet AI to learn more or keep reading…

Data is valuable

Websites use our data to make money. When we visit our favorite websites and log-in to our social media accounts, we practically sell our data to advertisers. Ultimately, that’s their business model. They provide a platform for us to connect, and we give them our personal data as payment.

Data is valuable, and huge organizations know it. Personal data generates 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.

The question is, do we really have a choice?

If you disagree with the terms and don’t accept them, you don’t have permission to use that site. It seems unfair, yet we continue to obey companies’ rules that profit off our data. 

Should we get paid for our data?

Since companies have found ways to make money from our data, it leads to the question – should we be paid for our data? Is such a thing even possible?

What if we could determine who gets data about what sites we visit, what apps we use on our phones, what physical locations we visit, and what conversations we have. What if there was a way that we could be paid for all the information companies gather on us daily?

What if our data could be worth something to us, and not just the companies who have taken it upon themselves to make money from our data?

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 blockchain type technology? Well, that’s exactly what Professor Dawn Song and her company Oasis Labs are working towards.

Who is Professor Song?

Professor Song is one of the world’s leading experts 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 and 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 to how machine learning algorithms can infer what someone is typing. This made it incredibly easy for hackers to use software to figure out someone’s password. She showed how hackers used the software to identify even the strongest passwords from their keystrokes’ timing 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. The driverless vehicle then continued through an intersection without stopping.

How Professor Song’s technology could make your data your private property

She proved that many 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.

Furthermore, Professor Song believes that people should have more control of their data. She is creating technology that empowers users to protect their personal information. Not only that, but this technology could also give users the freedom to decide who can use their data and to get paid for their data. 

Through a Stanford Medical School program, patients can use the Oasis platform to decide who to share their medical data with and get paid when it’s used. As part of the clinical trial, participants agreed to have their retinas scanned. They also agreed to share other medical data privately through a blockchain type application on the Oasis platform. Researchers were then able to use this information to train computers to recognize eye diseases.

Meanwhile, Nebula, a genomics company, is jumping on board and has integrated with Oasis to give users control of their personal genomic data.

What is Professors Song’s vision for the future?

Professor Song’s technology and the work that Oasis are doing to help people get paid for their data is truly remarkable. However, what is the end goal? And, what is Professor Song’s vision for the future?

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 monthly 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.”

I believe that this is a revolutionary idea. Thanks to Professor Song’s hard work, she has created an internet platform that uses blockchain technology to control our data and earn an income from it.

Personal data as private property? I think it’s time.

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