An Internet of Things (IoT) blockchain specialist and a healthcare data firm have teamed up to devise a solution for fighting the pandemic that complies with European data privacy laws.
On April 17, IoT blockchain startup Ubirch and Nasdaq-listed Centogene announced their partnership on a solution for securely handling the results of COVID-19 mass testing.
Volkmar Weckesser, CIO for Centogene — which has collected epidemiologic, phenotypic and genetic data for 500,000 patients worldwide to date — said that when combined with Uirch’s blockchain portal:
“[SARS-CoV-2] test results can be accessed everywhere in a forgery-proof manner ─ spearheading a return to normality.”
The right to privacy in the coronavirus era
The COVID-19 global crisis has led many privacy advocates to point to the blockchain as a key tool in the technological arsenal that can prevent an overreach of state-led biosurveillance.
Collecting and analyzing data en masse appears to be key to tackling the public health crisis — and encrypted blockchain systems can potentially help mitigate the worst effects of surveillance on individuals’ privacy, particularly when it comes to sensitive health data.
Yet there have been long-standing debates about how blockchain technology interacts with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), — a landmark European Union-wide legal framework for personal data privacy, which took effect in May 2018.
High-profile GDPR principles such as the right to be forgotten and the other far-reaching requirements the legislation places upon EU firms have sparked the question of whether blockchain networks — which are notably immutable, and thus do not erase data — can be made compatible with the framework.
The solution developed by Ubrich and Centogene ostensibly focuses on GDPR conformity:
“According to the highest data protection standards, user data is only stored as hash values on the blockchain and cannot be interpreted without user authorization.”