On April 12, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a patent filing from the Bank of America outlining their plans for a permissioned blockchain implementation that enables personal and business data sharing. A user will authorize service providers to securely access their data, but only for the specific records they have access to. For example, a healthcare provider will only have access to relevant healthcare records.
One of the challenges the patent is trying to solve is the current model of data sharing that involves copies of data being created and stored across service providers. This data exchange typically occurs by sending email attachments or uploading documents to a service provider’s website. Once the data has been sent, there is no additional governance or security that can be universally applied. The filing cites the following disadvantages to this approach:
There are a number of disadvantages to using this type of electronic record sharing method. First, this method requires the individual or entity to repeat the record sending process for each record and service provider, creating inefficiencies within the computer systems involved in the transaction. Second, the traditional methods of sending records are susceptible to data corruption, as they typically lack a built-in mechanism for authenticating records. Finally, traditional methods are more prone to attacks from unauthorized parties.
The proposed solution leverages a private blockchain to:
Control transaction workflow amongst compute nodes, provide automatic authorization of transactions in the workflow, and provide efficient record-keeping functions within the virtual ledgers in an upstream and a downstream application.
Bank of America feels this solution will improve efficiencies in data processing by avoiding the desynchronization of data and reducing the span of access required across multiple computer nodes. As a result, Bank of America expects a reduction in processing power, memory, storage, cache, network bandwidth, I/O calls and electric power being required.
Within the patent filing, the solution is positioned as a general document storage solution that requires access to information to be requested from a service provider. The documents will exist on the blockchain and can be in various formats including plaintext, PDF, word processing formats and HTML.
Bank of America feels providing access to documents, through this private blockchain implementation, has many benefits including:
- Utilizing the blockchain to store relevant records reduces the number of back-and-forth queries that must be made between the computer servers owned by an individual or entity and the service provider, thereby increasing the processing efficiency.
- Storing relevant records on a blockchain provides a reliable and convenient way to store a complete history of all records relevant to receiving a service (e.g. an entire medical history).
- Improved reliability, in contrast to traditional methods, in a loss of records (e.g. due to server instability, user error, etc.) may result in gaps in the record history.
While this patent was originally filed in 2016, the release of this filing comes at a time when Facebook was recently called to United States Congress over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and ahead of the upcoming European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which requires companies to support Data Subject Requests (DSR), including the exporting and deletion of personal data