The Strategist

New tech trend 2019: Personal data protection

12/21/2018 - 09:36

Handling personal data of citizens by governments of different countries creates difficulties in the work of IT companies. However, some regard these problems as new opportunities, as demonstrated by the Techcrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018 conference.

Artem Sapegin
Artem Sapegin
The European start-up event Techcrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018 showed that in the coming years, the key requirement for successful startups (besides the usual convenience of work, unique technologies, competent marketing, etc.) will be the ability to store personal data of their customers. It has become particularly true for Europe since adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation divided companies into those who can cope with this task and who risk falling out of the market. From a technical point of view, it is not so easy to stay afloat.

Many people come to Disrupt for Startup Battlefield, where startups present their projects to venture investors, journalists and all interested, and finalists receive a grant and publicity. Earlier, the competition was attended by Dropbox, Beam, Trello, Yammer and other services that later received international popularity.

In 2018, at least four out of five finalists dealt with personal data. And this can be a problem for them and for their customers.
For example, the winner - a startup Legacy from Switzerland - offers sperm bank services to men. Another finalist is Spike app for diabetics. Such startups help solve real people's problems, but now they need to prove to watchdogs that processing large amounts of personal data will not harm their owners, including will not violate their right to privacy.

Section 4 (1) of the GDPR defines personal data as any information that can be associated with an individual and defined in the real world. Thus, personal data will include any information which a user needs to specify in order to use your product: lists of orders, devices, purchases, notes, comments, addresses. It can also be any indirect information that, together with the additional information, will allow identifying an individual: for example, hair color, color of the jacket, brand of car, office address, can be referred to personal data.

It turns out that GDPR is becoming a real challenge and a test for viability for startups. And there’s one more thing behind quite obvious trends and technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchains, the Internet of things and personification of everything, - it is the technologies of detection, protection and storage of personal data. Perhaps this trend will be the most important in 2019, because it concerns everyone.

Startup Battlefield’s list of finalists included a Canadian startup Kalepso, which protects user data with cryptographic end-to-end encryption. Setting aside all technical details, all possible connections with personal data are removed, and the encryption keys are never stored on servers. From the point of view of GDPR-compliance, this is the best way to protect users, since the data will not be read even in the case of hacking.