UC Berkeley to use blockchain for public health studies
UC Berkeley School of Public Health is offering novel assurances to individuals who offer their own personal data to advance public health.
Bitmark, a Taiwan-based company that has created a blockchain-like system for digital property ownership, will help the school use the emerging technology to ensure participants know exactly how and where their data is being used.
The blockchain tools will also while give researchers the ability to verify provenance and consent, according to the firm, which is funding Berkeley research fellows to conduct public health studies using its technology.
The system structures and converts personal data into digital property by issuing property titles, known as "bitmarks" – each of which serves as a permanent record of the ownership history for its property by recording each transfer of ownership in Bitmarks open-source ledger.
It's the first public application of the system, Bitmark officials say. By using blockchain technology, Berkeley researchers will be able to verify what data is being recorded and transferred without relying on central intermediaries.
"Berkeley is excited to partner with Bitmark on this fellowship," said Lauren Goldstein, director of research development at UC Berkeley School of Public Health, in a statement. "It is a great opportunity for our young researchers to gain valuable hands-on experience at the intersection of public health and technology."
Beyond the Berkeley partnership, Bitmark hopes to help the public health system at large, officials say, by enabling more transparent access to data, providing a network effect of usability via crowdsourcing and automating consent using blockchain.
Bitmark CEO Sean Moss-Pultz says that as wellness data proliferates, it can "also aid research in myriad areas. Through our partnership with UC Berkeley, we all can become data philanthropists and help advance public health."