Type: Research (Spin-off Project from KU Leuven and Karlstad University)
Category: Privacy, Security
Sub-categories: Data Protection
Opacity: Privacy by Design Technology, enhancing privacy and transparancy for end users
Digital business is about trust and reputation. Opacity allows you to differentiate and build a competitive advantage. What makes Opacity unique in the market is our solid cryptographic ‘Privacy by Design’ technology that allows an organization to position itself as privacy-friendly and trustworthy by enabling their end-users to get insights in how their data are handled.
Solution (Value Proposition)
Opacity is a spin-off project from KU Leuven and Karlstad University, in which a transparency-enhancing tool will be valorized. The tool’s foundation is based on a cryptographic scheme that enables data processors to inform users about the actual data processing that takes place on their personal data. It is therefore also a privacy-enhancing tool, as full and irrevocable transparency is a prerequisite for dealing with privacy-sensitive data. Our proposed solution can handle arbitrary processes while offloading storage and interactions with users to dedicated log servers. On top of strong integrity and confidentiality properties, our scheme preserves users' privacy despite the publicly-accessible insight offered to the user: this is done by making it impossible to detect links between multiple log entries or to correlate user identifiers across multiple data processors (for distributed processes). Our proposed solution has several applications, e.g., it can make access to electronic health records transparent to the patients to whom the records relate. Moreover, because of the strong confidentiality and integrity properties, combined with cryptographic time-stamping the solution also provides a tool to bind the execution of a process in an open, publicly verifiable and irrevocable way to a period in time. Such transparency of data processing is often a requirement for compliance to legislation and/or business requirements.
Opacity allows companies to be fully transparent to their end-users and auditors with the strongest security and privacy guarantees in the market. Moreover, Opacity is focusing on turning compliance and obligations into competitive advantages: users will choose a company that is transparent about the way it is handling their data, while auditors will save time because they can rely on the integrity of the complete log database. Opacity deploys state-of-the-art cryptography to implement a series of security and privacy properties, up to such an extent that the log server in the system does not have to be trusted allowing data to be stored with any cloud service provider, e.g. Amazon. Another unique characteristic of the solution is that the set of logged information is completely free of end-user and content correlations, if the cryptographic key material is not known. Furthermore, the solution supports the logging of distributed processes, however loosely they are coupled, across any platform and any company. This is because the solution itself is technology-agnostic.
Supporting Technology (the 'magic')
Opacity provides a transparency-enhancing tool in the form of a cryptographic scheme that enables companies to inform end-users about the actual data processing that takes place on their personal data. This is done by storing and serving encrypted meta-data, generated by those companies, about the data processing, in a secure and verifiable way. By removing any link between stored data, we go beyond traditional solutions. The result is transparency with maximal privacy for both the individual and the organization or commercial entity. The technology was developed to handle large volumes, have a minimal impact on existing company processes and is easy to implement. The software has been extensively stress-tested both in a local setting as with a remote third party cloud provider, showing that even in the most modest setups, Opacity can be used to log tens of millions of events per day. Moreover we are currently demonstrating our software within a document processing company, which handles hundreds of millions of documents per year for its customers and wants to log all actions on these documents. Apart from this, the Opacity software is running in two other smaller proofs of concept, where developers were enthusiastic about the easiness of integration with their back-end processes. The innovation came to be through research within universities and European research projects. We own the copyright on the software. The core of the software, as described in publications, is open source under an Apache 2.0 license. The additions that make the core to a product are considered trade secrets. By making our core software open and not taking any patents on our ideas, we get validation from the community and allow this community to grow.
The team behind Opacity consist of five people, and contains the right mix of both technical people and people with experience in selling security and privacy products both in small and big enterprises. The team is closely aligned, making sure that architectural changes, verified in new use cases (from market research) are thoroughly discussed before taking them up in the development cycle. With its origins in European wide FP6 (Prime) and FP7 (PrimeLife, A4Cloud) projects, Opacity was built upon the strong academic track record of KU Leuven and Karlstad University, where the researchers are still involved in Opacity. To make the step from research to a commercial enterprise, we have gotten a Swedish VINN-verification grant to validate the potential and a Belgian IWT innovation mandate (postdoctoral grant) to conduct the research necessary to bridge the gap between research and a minimal viable product, and further develop the business case. After the research it became clear that Opacity needed the help of seasoned business professionals. We engaged with two business development professionals who made their mark in global and local ICT companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, Hitachi data systems … Through evangelization, conversation with prospects, it became clear that transparency presents business opportunities.
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