In the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal, startup Hu-manity.co is asserting our right to control our personal data, and today it announced it will use the IBM Blockchain Platform to ensure that private health data remains private.

Princeton, New Jersey-based Hu-manity.co will use IBM’s version of blockchain, the decentralized ledger that ensures both security and transparency, to control and manage consent, authorization, and commercial use of individuals‘ personal information. The IBM Blockchain Platform is a foundational technology to facilitate this, and it will allow millions of people to gain access to a permissioned blockchain-based data marketplace.

So if you choose to share your [financial] data for the purpose of applying for a financial account, for example, you can grant permission to your bank to answer questions about your financial health with a potential services provider — for one single time — so that you can get a good deal, explained IBM Blockchain VP Jerry Cuomo, in an interview with VentureBeat.

“What I see happening with blockchain is a theme of blockchain for good, where it is being used to protect people’s identity or to ensure that information being fed into a clinical trial is correct and that a drug you are taking hasn’t been counterfeited or that the food you are eating hasn’t been contaminated,” Cuomo said. “There’s a side of blockchain for good that I’m thrilled about.”

Cuomo said IBM got excited about blockchain starting in 2014 and the company has more than 1,500 blockchain specialists. It is using blockchain for good purposes, Cuomo said, like ensuring that the supply chain for transported goods has full integrity.

Above: Hu-manity.co CEO Richie Etwaru

Image Credit: Hu-manity.co

Hu-manity.co wants to expand our human rights to include the right to control our own data, and it’s working against a backdrop of growing concern around the misuse of personal information and human data — which includes health care records, geospatial location, and media usage metrics.

The company doesn’t want to just lock away your data, though. It wants to enable you to sell it if you choose to do so. The data brokerage marketplace is worth an estimated $200 billion annually, but individuals don’t have a consistent way to provide consent, and organizations lack a global and scalable way to appropriately access this valuable information or compensate people for it, the companies said.

With a focus on data transparency, Hu-manity.co will use a blockchain network to put users at the center of the data economy and in control of managing and permissioning their own personal information. Through features like immutability and decentralization, blockchain makes it possible for organizations and individuals to interact in a more transparent manner. Coupled with technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced data encryption, blockchain is an ideal foundation for this global consent ledger, the companies said.

Starting today, consumers can claim their human data rights via Hu-manity.co’s #My31 iPhone and Android app built on IBM Blockchain. Upon claiming their data property rights, users receive a title of ownership, akin to a property deed.

The 30 Human Rights ratified by the United Nations do not explicitly address human data rights, so the app is dubbed #My31 as an allusion to the “31st human right” — namely, that everyone has the legal right to ownership of their inherent human data.

The app gives people the ability to designate how their data can be shared, with whom, and under what circumstances, starting with health care data. Personal or medical data is not stored by Hu-manity.co; the data will remain wherever it is currently stored, such as in a hospital electronic medical records system or with a research organization. The #My31 app will instead record a user’s property ownership, as well as their data-sharing preferences.

For example, users can choose to share no information with third parties, or they may want to provide consent for use of their medical data for cancer research only. Users can also choose to lease their data to pharmaceutical companies or data aggregators but only upon receiving fair market compensation.

Above: #My31 asserts that you own your data.

Image Credit: Hu-manity.co

“By creating a global consent ledger built on the IBM Blockchain Platform, people, corporations, and the monetization of human data can co-exist sustainably,” said Hu-manity.co CEO Richie Etwaru, in a statement. “People will enjoy greater levels of security, privacy, and control, while corporations will be able to lawfully benefit from access to higher-quality data that has the explicit consent and authorization of its rightful owner.”

The research value and insight from a patient record greatly increases when the patient explicitly consents to sharing it.

“Explicitly consented records, coupled with authorization of use, is of tremendous value to the health care industry,” said R. “Ray” Wang, CEO of Constellation Research and Hu-manity.co advisory board member, in a statement. “It is not only ethically sound, it also accelerates key health care breakthroughs as we welcome this era of fair-trade data.”

Hu-manity.co will also collaborate with IBM to participate in the Sovrin Foundation and a pilot to help members of the Hu-manity ecosystem participate in the global Sovrin self-sovereign identity network. Sovrin and Hu-manity have a shared vision of creating a global standard network for identity that enables citizens to control all use of their personal information.

Hu-manity.co’s #My31 consumer app is available from today. The enterprise solution will be generally available to corporations — starting with the health care industry — in the first quarter of 2019. The Hu-manity.co global consent ledger is built on the IBM Blockchain Platform, powered by the Hyperledger Fabric and secured on the IBM Cloud.

Since 2016, IBM has worked with hundreds of clients across financial services, supply chain, government, retail, and more to implement blockchain applications, and it operates more networks running live and in production than any other blockchain provider. The cloud-based IBM Blockchain Platform delivers enterprise class capabilities that clients need to quickly develop, govern, secure, and activate their own business networks. Cuomo said IBM worked with the Linux Foundation to ensure that its Hyperledger Fabric technology was a truly open source collaboration.