Data Clean Rooms for Innovation and Collaboration

Data, being a key enabler for innovation, growth, development and revenue, is the currency of the 21st century and an organization’s most valuable asset. Unlike a tangible asset, the value an organization can seek from data is endless; essentially, the more they explore, the more they can innovate and monetize.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, organizations that promote data sharing will outperform their peers on most business value metrics. By 2021, organizations that offer users access to a curated catalog of internally and externally prepared data will realize 100% more business value from analytics investments than those that do not.

However, one of the biggest challenges businesses face is getting access to data they can actually use. First, personally identifiable information (PII) is strictly regulated and any organization that mishandles it will face significant financial penalties or even jail sentences. Second, and perhaps more worrying, cybercriminals are relentlessly going after data, stopping at nothing to steal and exploit it.

Global cybercrime costs are on the rise, increasing 15% year-over-year, according to a 2021 cyberwarfare report by CyberSecurity Ventures. By 2025, it is estimated that cybercrime will cost businesses worldwide $10.5 trillion annually. With the global cost of cybercrime at $3 trillion in 2015, that’s more than a threefold increase over a decade. This represents the “greatest transfer of economic wealth in history,” stated the report.

This puts organizations in a very difficult position. They understand the value of data-driven innovation, but the risks of coming under attack from cybercriminals or being accidentally exposed puts them off.

Today, organizations can face millions of dollars in penalties if their data is leaked online. Whether the loss happens as a result of a cyberattack or an employee accidentally misconfiguring a cloud security application, the repercussions are the same: damaged brand, damaged reputation and very costly fines.

Earlier this year, the world was given a stark reminder of the negative consequences that can happen when test data is accidentally exposed online. A database containing 1.9 million unique email addresses, full names, phone numbers, IP addresses and hashed passwords was stolen from Dutch e-ticketing company Ticketcounter. The data quickly appeared for sale on a hacker forum, after which the criminals demanded the company pay them $337,000 in Bitcoin not to leak it. What made this incident so significant is that it was never an actual hack, but rather an accidental leak that led to the breach. The database had been exposed after being copied to an unsecured Azure staging server to test the process of anonymization.

Incidents like these are enough to put many CEOs off exploring their data, instead opting to lock it away behind iron-clad barriers and pretending it doesn’t exist. However, the unfortunate news is that it is impossible today for businesses to grow and succeed without data innovation. Any organization that is not driving insights and innovation from their data will not survive long in our hyper-competitive world.

So, what is the solution? Is it possible to collaborate and to drive valuable insights without the associated risks?

Empowering Innovation Through Data Clean Rooms

New digital safe spaces called data clean rooms are growing in popularity among organizations today. The rooms empower secure data sharing and collaboration across internal groups, remote teams and external partners, thus allowing organizations to explore safely without the fear of accidental exposure, leaks or theft.

The deployments are pristine, isolated environments that can be set up within minutes and are programmed to receive data, but not let it leave. The environments act as a walled garden providing multiple parties with access to the same data so they can work together on innovation projects. The rooms are tightly integrated with an enterprise’s logging and monitoring tools, to provide a full audit of all information access and movement.

Taking things a step further, organizations can also couple clean rooms with the use of simulated or synthetic data technology, where AI tools are used to simulate new data based on the original to improve privacy and diminish the risk of it falling victim to a breach.

The simulated data looks and feels just like the original, but all the personal attributes have been removed so it is impossible to identify individuals. This has a monumental impact on privacy and security, as the simulated data is of absolutely no value to a cybercriminal; however, because characteristics of the original information remain, the simulated dataset can still offer organizations genuine insights for innovation purposes.

Advanced synthetic data generation tools also have the ability to address bias within datasets and identify when some groups are underrepresented. The technology can then rebalance accordingly so that organizations have a broader understanding of an entire market.

Data innovation is critical for all organizations today, but it is not surprising that many CEOs allow their fears to outweigh the benefits. Data clean rooms offer a secure safe space where organizations can collaborate internally and externally on their data without the fear of it falling into the wrong hands. However, when coupled with data simulation tools, the risks of exposure, breach, theft or loss are almost completely eliminated.

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Nicolai Baldin

Dr Nicolai Baldin is the CEO and Founder of Synthesized and has led the organisation’s growth from a simple idea to a service used by tech companies in the UK, Europe and the US. Nicolai is responsible for the direction and product strategy of Synthesized. For over 8 years, Nicolai has designed and delivered complex ML solutions used by top financial and healthcare institutions. He holds a PhD in Machine Learning and Statistics from the University of Cambridge.

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