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Corona Tracking: New Encryption Technology Ensures Data Protection

The knowledge as to the places where people increasingly got infected is an important factor in overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. In this way health authorities get a better understanding about how the regional spread of the virus takes place and can take effective countermeasures. However, there are major concerns about recording sensitive health data based on fears that data privacy and data security cannot be guaranteed. In fact, technologies which are ready for use have long been available. Processes focusing on applied cryptography, such as homomorphic encryption, enable confidential data to be processed without the necessity of decrypting the data.

There are already internationally successful examples of application. For example, education and income data have already been evaluated in Estonia using this new encryption method. However, this method has not yet been used in practice in Austria. Within the context of the research project "Safe-Deed", the Know-Center successfully demonstrated the application of this method on the basis of simulated data in cooperation with the Graz University of Technology and international partners.

Combining Health and movement data in compliance with data privacy laws

The so-called Corona Heatmap shows the specific location where larger numbers of coronavirus patients where when they got infected, thus comprising a valuable complementary tool to contact tracing. Two sets of data are required to make this possible, namely the mobile phone numbers of the Corona patients which are at the disposal of health authorities and the location data in the hands of mobile phone providers. However, the requests made by health authorities enable mobile phone providers to identify who has tested positive for Corona. At the same time, health authorities can identify the movement data of individuals. In this case, patient data can be leaked, and individual monitoring is possible. In order to solve this problem, the mobile phone numbers of patients are encrypted before being sent to the mobile phone providers. The provider calculates the movement profiles without having to decrypt the patient data. The movement profiles are subsequently aggregated, which means individual monitoring of drawing of conclusions about individuals are no longer possible.

Use confidential data in a value-added manner

There is a diverse range of application examples for this method, particularly in the healthcare sector. For example, by combining health data from different sources. illnesses and he disease progression of a patient can be more effectively predicted and better therapies developed based on the patient's medical history.
Homomorphic encryption of data can also be exploited in a value-adding manner in industry. Several companies can jointly train artificial intelligence models and profit from improved and more precise results without allowing the participating partners to read the data among themselves. This opens up many possibilities and business models. For example, the supply ecosystem in production can be optimised across many suppliers based on cryptographic analyses and without extended file sharing.


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Know-Center GmbH

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