MIT’s Enigma – A New Blockchain Project Will Allow Individual Sharing Enabling Autonomous Control Of Personal Data

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MIT grad student Guy Zyskind and Blockchain entrepreneur Oz Nathan, with assistance from MIT Professor Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland are in later stages of building the Enigma Project, a new Blockchain platform that could enable a marketplace where users can sell the rights to use encrypted data in bulk computations and statistics without giving raw access to the underlying data itself.

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Enigma is a peer-to-peer network which will enable different parties to jointly store and run computations on data while keeping the data completely private.

Enigma’s computational model is based on a highly optimized version of secure multiparty computation, guaranteed by a verifiable secret-sharing scheme.

For storage, they will use a modified distributed hashtable for holding secret-shared data and an external blockchain is utilized as the controller of the network. The Blockchain will manage access control, identities and serves as a tamper-proof log of events.

Security deposits and fees will incentivize operation, correctness and fairness of the system. Similar to Bitcoin, Enigma will remove the need for a trusted third party, enabling autonomous control of personal data and for the first time, users are able to share their data with cryptographic guarantees regarding their privacy.

This could be the missing link in direct brand-consumer relationships where brands will be able to reward consumers for their data – particularly if combined with a Blockchain nano-currency like Billon has built.  The ability to  enable an economy where users can sell the rights to use encrypted data in bulk computations and statistics without giving raw access to the underlying data itself is hugely powerful. They plan to  launch a beta test in the near future.

From their whitepaper:

Enigma is private. Using secure multi-party computation (sMPC or MPC), data queries are computedin a distributed way, without a trusted third party. Data is split between different nodes, and they compute functions together without leaking information to other nodes.

Specifically, no single party ever has access to data in its entirety; instead, every party has a meaningless (i.e., seemingly random) piece of it. Enigma is scalable. Unlike blockchains, computations and data storage are not replicated by every node in the network. Only a small subset perform each computation over different parts of the data.

The decreased redundancy in storage and computations enables more demanding computations. The key new utility Enigma brings to the table is the ability to run computations on data, without having access to the raw data itself. For example, a group of people can provide access to their salary, and together compute the average wage of the group.

Each participant learns their relative position in the group, but learns nothing about other members’ salaries. It should be made clear that this is only a motivating example. In practice, any program can be securely evaluated while maintaining the inputs a secret. Today, sharing data is an irreversible process; once it is sent, there is no way to take it back or limit how it is used. Allowing access to data for secure computations is reversible and controllable, since no one but the original data owner(s) ever see the raw data.

This presents a fundamental change in current approaches to data analysis.

Read whitepaper in full here.

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About Richard Kastelein

Founder and publisher of industry publication Blockchain News (EST 2015), a partner at ICO services collective Token.Agency ($750m+ and 90+ ICOs and STOs), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) – Vancouver native Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of some two dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1500 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat. Irish Tech News put him in the top 10 Token Architects in Europe.

Kastelein has an Ad Honorem - Honorary Ph.D. and is Chair Professor of Blockchain at China's first Blockchain University in Nanchang at the Jiangxi Ahead Institute of Software and Technology. In 2018 he was invited to and attended University of Oxford's Saïd Business School for Business Automation 4.0 programme.  Over a half a decade experience judging and rewarding some 1000+ innovation projects as an EU expert for the European Commission's SME Instrument programme as a startup assessor and as a startup judge for the UK government's Innovate UK division.

Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London (5x), Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, Prague, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara (2x), Shanghai, Singapore (3x), Tel Aviv, Utrecht, Venice, Visakhapatnam, Zwolle and Zurich.

He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and Virgin.com, and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French. A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world. In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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