This episode of The Rick & Clo Tech Show is all about delving deep. Rick shares some insights into how technology will evolve over time, particularly within healthcare, and how it will also allow individuals to be in control of their identity.

How will technology play a part in identity management?

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Rick 00:00 So one of the other things I was looking at this week is this concept of identity management. There's a number of reasons for this and it's medical IDs and medical records which is a bit of a topic.

Chloe 00:12 Mmhm.

Rick 00:13 They have now started, so Google and Apple predominantly, are working with healthcare quite a bit now. They are looking at how they can help users control their own medical data, right. Now, there's a reason, there's a number of reasons behind this.

Rick 00:38 There was an early horrible screw up in Finland in their technology becoming part of the healthcare stack. So, in Finland they've been very progressive in getting everything digital, very, getting the centralised stuff working, but there was a gap in what they were doing, with nothing really happening in mental health care.

Chloe 01:05 Right.

Rick 01:06 And a young guy started a company to solve this problem because he wanted to -. And he was absolutely, you know, genuine, correct thing, wanted to start this company. So he wasn't, from what I can tell he wasn't the most technical person but he bought programmers in to help him achieve what he was gonna do. And what they did was they created this like online service where you could find a therapist, book a slot and get mental health therapy but then the therapist would use the system to manage their time and log everything and use the records and everything digitally, right, so that you didn't have to go to the same person each time and if you went to a new place, if you moved house, you would then be able to have all your records immediately.

Chloe 01:53 Okay.

Rick 01:54 And pick up from where they left off.

Chloe 01:56 Mmhm.

Rick 01:57 Lots of great improvements. Problem. They weren't regulated well enough and they weren't audited properly for security and personal information security and what happened is the company exploded in popularity, very successful, so they got hundreds of locations and then they got thousands of people. I think something like 11,000, maybe more. Basically people all registered on the system, all of these sessions that they were having were being recorded and all the notes were being put into this digital system.

Chloe 02:37 Right.

Rick 02:38 In 2017, this guy who is in the story who's basically, a guy who'd had treatment for suicidal thoughts and mental health depression, just, all those. He had gone through a sequence of treatment and was now happy and living his life four years later and he gets an email from an anonymous person saying I have your records and I am going to publish them, unless you pay me some Bitcoin.

Chloe 03:06 Oh god.

Rick 03:07 Okay. So he includes a snippet of conversation of him talking about stuff to his therapist, right. So now this is shocking on a number of levels, right. So you are now facing the idea that somewhere publicly all of your darkest inner, like, stuff that you've shared is going to be out there. This is a nightmare for a lot of people. Now, on top of that, this is a person who has been treated for depression and had suicidal thoughts. This does not help.

Chloe 03:37 Nope.

Rick 03:38 I think it was $3,000 basically and it would be $4,000 the following day and it be $8,000 the day after, right. And that was the idea. Now, the thing was, this email went to all the people on the database.

Chloe 03:52 God.

Rick 03:53 And so he, before he started to think about paying it, he saw on Twitter that this was starting to happen, that people were talking about it.

Chloe 04:01 Mm.

Rick 04:02 There were politicians in there, there were famous people in there, there were all sorts. And this was a wake-up call for a number of reasons. Now, the company itself then had to investigate what was going on and realised that yes, they had been breached and yes, they had taken all these patient records. Now, a number of things. One. The records were not encrypted in place, right. By the way, that's now law for personal data in the EU and the UK and it was then, but it wasn't when they developed the software.

Chloe 04:40 Right.

Rick 04:05 So there was this crossover. Now, to be honest, all of those things aside, the point there is, that should never have happened. It should never have been allowed and those patients didn't actually have their data in their control, right, so that's a problem. For a number of reasons. There is a lot to think about there.

Chloe 05:04 Crazy.

Rick 05:05 Because, at the moment, we've seen two fairly major things affect economies and healthcare systems. So, during the pandemic that was a hack directed at US hospitals on purpose to try and, basically, stop them from operating at full capacity and there was a concerted attack that was put down as a Russia-based attack. We don't know whether that's spin or whether that's true, but then what, two weeks ago? The central pipeline across America for transporting gasoline basically was hacked. It's security and it's software systems were laughable.

Chloe 05:52 Right.

Rick 05:53 Absolutely laughable if you ask me. But, at this particular project, it was a huge money earner for some very very big players. So, this was a pipeline that was invested in by a bunch of billionaire/millionaire types and they didn't like to have any PR about this project because it is not what you would want PR for. You're, basically, part of the problem if people are talking about moving to electric, about improving -. But, it is a lifeline for the Southern parts of the US for fuel.

Chloe 06:27 Mmhm.

Rick 06:28 And it was making them hundreds of thousands of dollars a month and nobody really knew about the company particularly, until it blew up. As in, until these hackers shut the whole thing down. Now, they shut the pipeline down and suddenly in most of the Southern states of America, there is a gasoline shortage which has two effects. One. Every Tesla driver was smug as hell as they drove around, not even needing gasoline and touting their own houses when the power was out so, you know, there's all that. But, the other effect was that people started to try and buy it up and there was a panic and then -. And then everybody's like, well who is this company? Why do they? Why do? Who? And the CEO of the company actually stated in an interview that he wished that they'd never become a publicly, like, known company which nobody had heard about, like. And everyone's, like, normally companies like to be known about, so why do they? So they started looking into why don't they want to be known about. And they realised that it's just a huge money maker for a few people. So, they got there -. And, they can also turn it on and off. So, this is a problem.

Chloe 07:36 How have they got that control, yeah?

Rick 07:38 Well, exactly. So, control is a big thing. Decentralized is a word that you'll hear a lot when it comes to crypto and the next version of the internet. There's a thing called the Internet Computer Protocol that is being touted as the next internet. I have issues with it and we'll get onto that because it's to do with the same thing with identity.

Chloe 07:58 Okay, yep.

Rick 08:00 So, okay. So, identity. Your identity and your data is an important part of what you allow someone, as a company, to judge you by. So, Facebook has loads of data on you across loads of apps, by the way.

Chloe 08:19 Yep.

Rick 08:20 So, this is why 14.5, the new iOS, has come out and it will tell you that the app is going to try and track you across multiple apps and you can say no.

Chloe 08:32 Mmhm.

Rick 08:33 Now, Facebook really didn't like this. Facebook didn't like this to the point where they took Apple to court and said you are damaging our business, blah blah blah blah blah. And Apple said no no no no, what we're doing is giving our users the choice as to whether you get to follow them or not. And 4% of US users said yes, when they were given the choice.

Chloe 08:55 Really?!

Rick 08:56 Yes. So Facebook has taken a massive hit. Now, Facebook are hoping that people will give WhatsApp more permissions because they use it in a slightly different way and maybe they will, but WhatsApp and Facebook are the same group. They're still tracking you. They're trying to. So this control of your data, the control of your identity is very important. We see the sign-ins on web pages with sign in with Facebook, sign in with Apple, sign in with Google, sign in with -. They're your identity providers. So they want to be the unique ID for you, your Gmail account or your Gmail address. Unique ID. Then you've got two-factor authentication and an authenticator on top of that. So they want that to be how you control your data.

Chloe 09:40 Mmhm.

Rick 09:41 But they'd like to also be able to look at your data to give you extra services and targeted advertising, right.

Chloe 09:48 Yep.

Rick 09:49 And I kind of agree with it to a certain degree, because I don't really want to watch adverts for things that are irrelevant to me like baby toys and, you know, Stannah Stairlifts. Touch wood, not yet.

Chloe 10:01 Nope. (laughter)

Rick 10:02 You know. But, so, that's important. I, kind of, like the fact they know my age range and, you know, what -. But, when it comes down to things like, I saw someone Tweet that they were spooked that Facebook sent them a message saying, and it literally says in the message: "Hi {her name}. We've noticed you've been talking about getting married on Facebook. Would you like to start a honeymoon fund? Click here." Right. Because they've got a new product which is a financial product based upon raising money for your honeymoon by getting people to pay, you know, give you a wedding gift through a payment.

Rick 10:40 By the way, there is a separate platform that does it. I can't remember the name of it, but there are separate platforms for this. But Facebook has seen that gone > feature > add to Facebook. I know who's getting married. Now, the thing is it's probably very very obvious that she's getting married because she's probably typed 'I'm really excited to be saying that I'm going to get married on X date.' Right. And, alright, she's being spooked by their real, like, they're being very forward about it.

Chloe 11:06 Yep.

Rick 11:07 We've noticed you writing about marriage.

Chloe 11:09 Yep.

Rick 11:10 They're trying to be more open. What it's making you feel is, like, ooh what else do you know about me? And, by the way, it's a lot.

Chloe 11:19 Yeah, it's scary.

Rick 11:21 So who are we going to give our identity to? Who is going to be the one who controls it? So, this brings me onto, well, two things. One is, Apple and Google are now starting to do the medical IDs, okay. So, if you go into your health app on your, let me just find it. Here we are. Health. So yeah, so you've got this medical ID. The next one is access your records.

Chloe 11:48 Mmhm.

Rick 11:49 Now, that's your NHS records.

Chloe 11:53 Right.

Rick 11:55vNow, when you say get started, unfortunately it's gonna list two hospitals in the UK that are currently supporting this. They're on a trial. There's one in Oxford and there's one in Milton Keynes, okay.

Chloe 12:06 Right.

Rick 12:07 If you go to those hospitals, you can now retrieve your records from there and have them on here. Now, the aim is that you would then store your record somewhere encrypted that only you know. And when you next go back to the doctor, the doctor would say, "Can I see your last record?" and you would go, yep, unlock. With your face ID or with your fingerprint or with your, right -. So they have to request access back. And this is the future. The future is that you own your data and you give control. And this is what blockchain is very good at doing.

Chloe 12:43 Mmhm.

Rick 12:44 Right. And this brings me onto the next part of identity and this is, well, should we have a universal one? Rather than a Google one and a Facebook one. Because, they're companies. They're not, like, independent bodies. They're not, like, they're not set up for your welfare particularly.

Chloe 13:03 Nope, no.

Rick 13:05 I mean, you know, they try quite nicely because they want their customers to be happy. And that's true. They want their customers to be happy because happy customers buy more of their products. So, you know, annoying their customers is not what they're trying to do. They're actually trying to bring new products to your life that you will want to pay for. That's what a company does. So, we need something more independent and a lot of people are now saying, "Right, okay. We've got this blockchain technology, we've got decentralized finance being proposed, but we should also have decentralized other things, because if my data has been stored by Google because I've built an application on top of Google Systems, and by the way, that's most companies. They've built them on top of Microsoft systems or Google's or Apple's or, well, not really. Well, Apple's ecosystem to a degree. There is the problem that you don't actually have control on that.

Chloe 14:02 Mmhm.

Rick 14:03 If they wanted to, they could shut you down.

Chloe 14:05 Yep.

Rick 14:06 So if they decide, you know, ooh, you're a competitor.

Chloe 14:09 Yep.

Rick 14:10 Right, but you're using our services and we'll just turn that off.

Chloe 14:13 Mm.

Rick 14:14 So how do we do that? Well, you have to make everything anonymous, effectively, in transactions and how you store it, which is what is, weirdly, strangely possible with a system that is public. Blockchain is very public but you've got encryption using these keys. So, using encryption, what we can do is we can say smart contracts are the first thing that they've done with Ethereum, and with Bitcoin where you tie in to this immutable, and immutable means it cannot be changed. It is a record. This record is never going to get changed, so you have a ledger of things happening and that's great because we can check that and go yep, that's definitely happened.

Chloe 14:55 Yep.

Rick 14:56 So we can validate things without knowing who they are and where they came from and that's good for identity and it's good for storage and it's good for all sorts. But there is a project called the internet computer project. Now, I won't go into the details of the project 'cos it is so vast in its attempt to change the way the internet works. So, what they want to do, what they're, what they've suggested is that we have this new internet protocol and this allows us to abstract everything, so that no one company has control of these things. They can provide services to it.

Chloe 15:35 Yep.

Rick 15:36 So if they want to provide storage they can do that, but there is this interface layer which means that they can't, they don't see what's on it, they just provide that service in an anonymous way, and then all of these systems allow us to take advantage of it and we don't know where it's stored, it could be part on Facebook, part on this, part on that, part on the other. But they're proposing these standards for everything, standards for various things like data for vehicles, data for smart cities, how our, you know, so that there would be these inter-operable standards across, what is, a digital world. So as we start to use computers everywhere in cars, in traffic systems, in, you know, from everything we do. How do we make that so that no one player has full control?

Chloe 16:22 Yep.

Rick 16:23 And people can provide those services and make money off their services, but it's all abstracted so that we as individuals control our own data.

Chloe 16:32 Yep.

Rick 16:33 Fundamentally, brilliant, right. And also, scarily complex to implement. I mean, I'm impressed how far they've got. They've had millions of investment, they've been going since something like 2016/2017, maybe, and the concept in itself is great, but there are issues that I have with it. They want a standard for identity. Now, if they have control of this system, they might be called an independent body or a charitable organisation or something, but it still puts even more eggs in just one basket.

Chloe 17:10 Yeah, fundamentally it's still controlled by them.

Rick 17:14 Which means that, if you as an individual have your identity erased or it is taken away from you, your access to the entire global system of finance, everything, like shopping, just everythi-. Access to everything would disappear, right, which is like well, it's like the movie versions of all these things where people are like oh my god, you know.

Chloe 17:40 Yeah.

Rick 17:41 The system has decided you do not exist.

Chloe 17:43 Yeah.

Rick 17:44 Right, that I have an issue with. Now, if this was decentralized properly, then no one body could take your identity away. Then I'm in. Okay, so decentralize is gonna be big, and it's going to be big in a number of ways and blockchain is what it's built on.

Chloe 18:03 Yep.

Rick 18:04 And it's gonna get very very complex.

Chloe 18:06 How do you decentralize that process?

Rick 18:10 Okay, so, decentralization usually is about making the provider of a service an anonymous interface, so what they would like to know, so say, take the simplest which is storage. Right, so say you've got a hard disk and it's plugged into your computer, that's storage and you've got it. Now, if you installed a certain program, and they're out there and they're available, you could rent your storage out.

Chloe 18:41 Mmhm.

Rick 18:42 Now, Google and others have terabytes and more and they can easily provide this. Now, what happens is that your system, when it wants to save something, takes that piece of data and goes 'Oh, I'm saving it to my hard disk.' But actually what you're gonna do is you're gonna encrypt it first and take that block and store it somewhere and it's kept on the blockchain so we know where it is and it's definitely -. Now, what you can do is also say that I want that piece of data to be 3 places. So in computing we say that a piece of data doesn't exist unless it's in three places.

Chloe 19:18 Right.

Rick 19:19 Right. Because it's too risky to be in 2.

Chloe 19:20 Right.

Rick 19:21 Or 1. One is ridiculous as far as we're concerned. So when I get to people's houses and they say, "Oh, I haven't backed up my laptop for 6-months" and I just think oh dear God. You know, you know, I just -. It just puts the fear in me.

Chloe 19:35 Yeah.

Rick 19:36 But, if it's in 2 places, fine. But you can lose a backup. The other one that gets me as it is people who say, "Oh I do backup my computer every day." I'm like, how?! And they say "Oh I've got an external hard drive on top of it." Wow, so that house fire is really gonna save that backup isn't it, right, or put pouring water over it or, you know, or even just like somebody stealing it.

Chloe 20:01 Mm, somewhere I used to work, yeah, yeah. They had that and you had to take it away, it was like a hard drive thing and every night, someone took it home so it was out of the building and then they'd have to bring it back the next day and you think what?! I'm not a technologist, but that is absurd.

Rick 20:19 Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the other thing is often, previously backups wouldn't even be encrypted and sometimes and this is where they want to go with everything, they wanna abstract storage, they wanna abstract compute as well, so if you need to use compute you would, effectively, have this negotiated smart contract with, I'm trying to keep it simple, but this blockchain layer, that then distributes that task to two people that can provide the answers to it in milliseconds and comes back.

Rick 20:52 So yes, so there's a lot coming there.