Privacy-Enhancing Computation: Why Bother?
Why organizations are waking up to the benefits of PEC
From healthcare to finance, businesses today are collecting and storing more sensitive customer data than ever before.
At the same time, consumers are much more aware of the risks of sharing their personal information with companies. As a result, businesses must find ways to protect their customers’ privacy while still being able to collect and use data for business purposes.
One way to address this challenge is through Privacy-Enhancing Computation (PEC). PEC, also referred to as Privacy Preserving Technology or Privacy-Enhancing Technology (PET), is a set of techniques that can be used to protect data while still allowing it to be shared and used for analysis.
But PEC can seem too complex a topic for non-technical business leaders, and you may not know whether it’s for you. So why should businesses actually bother to learn about Privacy-Enhancing Computation techniques?
How Privacy-Enhancing Computation can help your business
Privacy laws, regulations, and policies are an important part of protecting consumers and patients. That said, privacy rules constrain businesses from leveraging their data as effectively as they could.
Most privacy-related issues can be divided into two categories: internal and external.
PEC solves internal privacy issues (within organizations)
If you work in a multinational company, or have some kind of cross-border operations, you may be too familiar with this already: when sensitive data crosses borders, business gets more complicated.
Every country and state has its own set of laws, which creates a jungle of rules and regulations to navigate. Working in the US will require you to jump through different hoops than in the EU, and the rules change again when you work with European countries like Ukraine, who aren’t EU members (yet). The more locations you have, the more painful this can be.
Navigating US medical privacy laws is cumbersome enough, but now you have to consider different sets of rules for every new location? (Cue collective groan).
Similarly, financial workers have to deal with their own labyrinth of privacy constraints. Since China doesn’t let private data leave the country, and your New York headquarters needs to run payroll, how are they supposed to know who is getting paid? Are you just supposed to fly someone to China with a laptop every time you process payroll? That seems wasteful at best.
Or what about trying to stay on target for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) goals? It becomes a much bigger hassle to assess your progress when you’re dealing with international rules.
PEC provides great technologies for dealing with all kinds of data residency issues like these.
PEC solves external privacy issues (between organizations)
Let’s say you want to pool data between your company and others. How do you do it safely and legally?
In financial services for instance, fraudsters may learn a new trick and hit as many financial institutions as possible before anyone is the wiser. Their job is easier because these institutions don’t share how they’ve been tricked, and have so many limitations on their ability to work with other institutions — no company wants to risk getting hit with an antitrust suit, or to have their competitors exploit valuable data.
The healthcare industry has their own set of data collaboration issues. Take precision medicine for instance. Big medical centers like Mayo Clinic (one of our investors) have oceans of data, much of which is hard to work with.
Imaging data like an EKG, EEG, or MRI might be straightforward to analyze individually, but what if you want to analyze a million of them, and use AI analytics tools to find important correlations — without all the incredibly biased data sets?
PEC is your answer. Legal agreements between medical institutions might seem like the only option, but these are slow and riddled with obstacles. Meanwhile, PEC is making it incredibly easy to collaborate with complex medical data, and to expand data sets without risking privacy.
“This is all great, but PEC sounds too expensive for us”
Surprisingly, Privacy-Enhancing Computation is a big cost-saver for businesses, especially when compared to more traditional alternatives to data collaboration (internally between countries or externally between organizations).
In particular, TripleBlind solves these issues inexpensively. You can ask us all about this when you book a demo.
“I’ve heard Privacy-Enhancing Computation solutions are slow and hard to scale”
PEC is still an emerging field, and it’s evolving rapidly. In the earlier days of these technologies, a PEC option called Homomorphic Encryption was a big focus, but it has a reputation for sluggish speeds and a high demand on computing power.
But PEC has evolved well past the stage of “clunky software experiment” and has grown into a full-fledged, commercially viable data collaboration option. In recent years, plenty of fast and scalable alternatives have emerged, allowing organizations to leverage their data without all the extra demands on resources.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy even recently endorsed the field, and is seeking public input to help increase adoption.
“We don’t have the tech talent to manage a PEC initiative”
One of the wonderful trends in technology today is how broadly accessible it’s becoming, and PEC is no exception. You don’t need to hire any expensive, high-level tech people to deal with your PEC solutions. It’s straightforward enough that everyday coders can work with it.
You can read about other common misconceptions around privacy-enhancing technologies on our blog.
Privacy-Enhancing Computation can help businesses meet their legal obligations to protect customer data, but PEC also helps businesses get more value from their data by allowing them to share and analyze it without revealing sensitive information about individual customers.
Despite these advantages, PEC is currently in the early and early-mid adopter stage of marketing development. This is often because business leaders are not familiar with PEC or its benefits, or have preconceptions about whether PEC is a realistic solution for them. For instance, many people are surprised to learn how PEC allows them to work with complex data like images, rather than just numbers or text.
Not only is PEC cost effective and faster than current alternatives, it allows organizations to confidently collaborate with data, knowing their usage will comply with regulations.
If you’d like to learn more about our award-winning PEC solution, book a demo today.