Ex-State Street Blockchain Team Drops DLT From New Data-Privacy Startup

A group of former State Street blockchain builders are now launching their own company – but with distributed ledgers playing only a minor role.

“We could have retrofitted Hyperledger or any other blockchain project to do the management of consumers’ personally identifiable information, but it would have just added so much unnecessary burden on the platform that we felt that wasn’t necessary,” Kohari, the firm’s CEO, said.

The Manetu team is not short on blockchain know-how, with its mix of ex-State Street DLT builders and Hyperledger maintainers: the CTO is Greg Haskins, former State Street senior vice president; Conor Allen, Manetu’s head of product, was previously State Street’s SVP of enterprise data; and chief scientist Binh Nguyen was managing director at the Boston-based custodian.

But when it comes to defining the best way to manage personally identifiable information (PII), Manetu is light on blockchain, opting for an agile blend of machine-learning algorithms and an encrypted “self-service portal” that’s connected to “target systems” like Oracle and Salesforce, where sensitive data is being maintained.

The team is looking to tackle business challenges spurred by a slew of tough data privacy rules, such as Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Manetu is designed to ease the headache these strictures can cause for any firms that hold personal data about customers (Manetu said it is currently testing with a large U.S. bank).

“Privacy acts are being introduced across the planet: Canada, Australia, Japan,” said Kohari. “Any consumer can request what data a service provider holds on them and also request to edit that data, and revoke certain parts or all of that data.”

The existing big players in data-privacy compliance mostly came out of the consulting space and have designed rather cumbersome solutions, Kohari said. Typically, this involves consumers filling out a request form that goes to a global privacy officer which is routed to individual business units and then back again.

“It’s a highly manual process and very onerous for the organization. On average, about 20 hours is spent on each request,” he said. “That might be manageable for 100 or so requests a month, but it simply does not scale going forward.” 

The only part of Manetu’s system where an actual blockchain is useful is its “regulatory data vault,” which maintains certain data and allows it to be shared with regulators. 

“The regulatory vault part of the solution is leveraging blockchain, but we didn’t need it for the core of the business,” said Kohari.

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