Autonomy is a community health app that empowers its users to forecast local health by merging local, institutional, and governmental data to create an accurate view of both the fitness of a community and the disorders and diseases that it might face. It’s the first app to merge private and public data for your benefit. It was created during the COVID-19 pandemic to help measure the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but it has much wider applicability. In the future it might detect cancer clusters or assess how common the cold is in your local community. It might help to evaluate the precise effects of pollution or allergens on our health. It can be an early warning system, a danger assessor, and an analytic research tool. It can help us all to get better. Together.
How does Autonomy protect privacy?
Bitmark has built Autonomy upon three Pillars of Privacy, which together protect the data of the individuals who are supporting their communities as they’re autonomously sharing this information.
The First Pillar: Data Pooling
All of the health data in Autonomy is collected into isolated data pools. In the default setup, a pool is built around a cohort of 450 people, who might be linked geographically, topically, or as a segment of a larger society. However, Autonomy also recognizes that cohort data could become identifying if sufficiently few members of a cohort responded to a data request. In these cases, Autonomy aggregates data across multiple non-overlapping data pools — and if it still can’t safely report information, it reports back nothing.
Besides protecting your privacy, data pooling also ensures your locality. Where governmental sources might be reporting health information at a county level, Autonomy can reveal the health of your local cohort, without individually identifying anyone.
The Second Pillar: Fiduciary Relationships
The health data on Autonomy is ultimately protected through a fiduciary relationship that is created between each member and the data holder. This is currently Bitmark, but we are actively recruiting other entities to form their own data pools, giving Autonomy members agency and choice in their selection of fiduciaries.
Fiduciary law is a well-understood but little-known legal field that focuses on a “fiduciary”, who holds a position of trust with a client. That relationship has typically been either legal or financial, such as a lawyer who advises his client as to good practices or a financial advisor who helps his client to invest their funds. However, it might better be understood through the example of a priest or a psychotherapist, who hears the deepest secrets of a client and who holds them in the utmost confidence. It’s the responsibility of a fiduciary to act in the best interest of their client, to their highest standard of care; it’s one of the strongest responsibilities in common law, granting extensive legal protection to clients. That’s what Bitmark and future data holders will offer to Autonomy users.
The Third Pillar: End-to-end Encryption
Finally, the health data that’s stored in Autonomy is all encrypted locally, using keys held by the members of a cohort. A user must explicitly authorize specific and limited access to their data, and that access can only occur through statistical queries that ensure the data remains anonymous. No one other than the local user has any way to view the individualized data; and even the anonymized data is largely constrained to usage by the community — excepting anonymized queries by research facilities and other institutions that have been authorized by the cohort.