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Data Privacy and Blockchain in the Age of IoT

Thanks to the internet of things (IoT), the world is connected like never before. While that fact has opened up a vast array of opportunities when it comes to communication and data sharing across platforms, it also come with concerns. Specifically, how can we ensure that our personal information is protected? And what roles do data scientists and big data play in protecting that sensitive information?

Blockchain technology is becoming an essential tool that can protect HIPAA-protected medical data and other forms of personal information that are worth quite a bit on the dark web. Society as a whole has come to favor wireless connectivity and 24/7 accessibility, but we need to ensure that our data privacy remains intact in the age of IoT-driven technology.

What Is Your Personal Data Worth?

As your personal data can take myriad forms, the amount it’s worth can vary considerably. For example, advertisers are interested in your consumer profile and shopping behavior data to develop personalized ads and run targeted campaigns. To cybercriminals, who aim to leverage personal data in order to commit identity theft, that data can be worth far more.

But that type of data sharing isn’t all bad: Consumer data can also be used by companies that have issued a product recall or by legal professionals putting together a claim against a negligent manufacturer. By identifying consumers that have purchased a defective product, companies can properly retrieve products at the individual level. In some instances, this can protect from you and your family from injury and even death, as exemplified the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, which was recalled in April 2019.

But where are such organizations finding your data? Much of your consumer profile data can be found on your social media sites — especially Facebook, which has no problem sharing your data with advertisers. That’s because the corporation brings in an enormous amount of revenue from those advertisers.

In fact, Robin Bloor at permission.io claims that the average cost per click (CPC) for an online Facebook ad was $1.86 in 2017. Multiply that by the estimated 1.47 billion users worldwide who log in to the platform every day, and you can see how vital CPC revenue is to Facebook’s bottom line, even if a large number of users don’t click on ads.

But, as pointed out earlier, personal data is also valuable to hackers, who can sell information including your home address, Social Security number, credit card numbers, and even passwords on the dark web. A complete medical record of the average person can fetch a price of around $1,000, and sensitive medical data found on the dark web can be used by insurance companies or even as blackmail.

Data Privacy and HIPAA Compliance

Within the medical industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was introduced in 1996 to help prevent healthcare fraud and the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions when an individual changes jobs or insurance providers. HIPAA also protects and secures medical records to ensure better patient privacy. The rise in electronic health record (EHR) use has compounded the complexity of HIPAA compliance, giving rise to the question of medical data protection.

HIPAA imposes heavy fines for noncompliance, especially where public health information is concerned. Further, although a large percentage of medical facilities and hospitals have made the transition to EHRs, a large amount of paper records still exist. According to HIPAA-mandated requirements, there is a proper way to dispose of those records in order to protect patient data.

HIPAA requires that tangible medical records be retained for six years from the date of creation or last use, whichever comes later. State laws may differ when it comes to the time frame of document destruction, but HIPAA’s retention period preempts state law. When documents are properly destroyed, they cannot be copied, hacked, or otherwise used in an unscrupulous manner.

The Pillars of Blockchain Technology

But shredding documents obviously isn’t an option when it comes to EHRs. Blockchain technology may provide a secure medical record storage and disposal solution, but healthcare facilities should be aware of the implications that accompany a healthcare blockchain solution. Healthcare facilities should undergo a HIPAA risk analysis prior to embarking on a blockchain project in order to find and address any vulnerabilities that may be present.

Once that is accomplished, it’s in the best interest of businesses and healthcare organizations to make the switch to blockchain solutions. Blockchain is often referred to as the future of business, and one of the strongest benefits of the technology is also one of its pillars: immutability. When data is entered into the blockchain, it cannot be altered without invalidating all the information that comes after. This keeps data secure and ensures that it is reliable and accurate.

Transparency is another foundation of blockchain technology, and one of its greatest assets when it comes to the healthcare industry and HIPAA compliance. This is where blockchain, big data, and IoT collide — big data analytics requires quality, accurate input. Automated compliance technology can help with this. Blockchain technology is by definition transparent and immutable, so healthcare professionals can rest assured that the data is authentic. By bringing that data together within IoT, healthcare organizations can ensure HIPAA compliance and incomparable EHR protection.

About the Author

Avery Phillips is a freelance human based out of the beautiful Treasure Valley. She loves all things in nature, especially humans. Leave a comment down below or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or comments.

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