Hi Everyone,

It’s becoming clear to me that in regions without unified leadership against COVID-19, safe restarts will not be possible. Places such as Vietnam and Taiwan, where we have offices, are keeping their citizens safe (and working), while others are not…

In this unfortunate time, Bitmark hopes to make a difference. Let me get you caught up with what’s new at Bitmark:

We teamed up with Girls in Tech to launch a new podcast series, Hope in Crisis, discussing how technology can help us rise from various crises in modern society, both in English and Chinese.

 

You can follow the series on the following platforms:

  1. SoundOn: https://reurl.cc/AqV4Vj
  2. Spotify: https://reurl.cc/NjvQ6k
  3. YouTube: https://lnkd.in/gnriUFZ
  4. Anchor: https://reurl.cc/Wd6W7D

 

  1. News anchor Catherine Lu’s Facebook English-language interview with Bitmark CEO Sean Moss-Pultz “美國怎麼了?台灣做對了什麼?(Part.1)” about our public health app Autonomy received over 330K views, 7.8K likes, 2.8K reshares, and about 300 comments. (English and Chinese)
  2. We have faced serious difficulty in launching Autonomy to App Stores. Coindesk covered our failed launch, asking what happens when the gatekeepers we trust have too much power?
  3. Bitmark and Blockchain Commons announced Charter, a new and open architecture for the next generation of social media projects:
    1. Charter reimagines social media to recover its initial promise, with new safeguards so that no single vendor one can steal it away. Its architecture ensures that every social-media participant has both autonomy and agency. As individuals we control and govern our own data, deciding for ourselves how online information is shared, used, and deleted. For social media, this means we have authority over not just a timeline of posts, but also our social graph of connections. Each individual now decides who reads our posts and what we see ourselves.
  4. We conducted a workshop with RadicalxChange on “Restoring Data Dignity in COVID-19” (English)

Other Media Coverage:

  1. Business Weekly “防疫新生活,隱私也不愁” (Taiwan minister Audrey Tang discusses Autonomy) (Chinese)
  2. Sean’s Op-Ed on DigiTimes “【Sean Moss-Pultz專欄】在台美國人對於全球防疫與公衛的數位剖析” (Chinese)
  3. INSIDE “【科技防疫】Bitmark 開發 Autonomy,提供 COVID-19 等健康預報” (Chinese)
  4. Popular Blockchain Writer Astro Hsu gave Autonomy his vote of approval “總統盃黑客松投票指南:假新聞、數位民主、個資隱私” (Chinese)
  5. Taiwan Today “Winners of Taiwan-US coronavirus Hackathon announced in Taipei” (English)
  6. iThome “臺美防疫松吸引7國逾50團隊參加,最終5大科技抗疫應用方案出爐” (Chinese)
  7. Coverage of our announcement to leave Facebook “【獨家專訪】停用臉書捍衛數據主權!台灣新創 Bitmark 開闢社交新時代” (Chinese)

If you enjoy this newsletter or our work, please help us by sharing it with a friend.


Meanwhile, here are some articles that caught my attention over the last month:

John Gruber on Apple’s failure with its App Store:

But more than anything I worry that this exemplifies where Apple has lost its way with the App Store. What exactly is the point of running a strict approval process for apps if not, first and foremost, to ensure that they’re good apps? An iPad email app that doesn’t support split-screen multitasking for five years is, by definition, not a good app.

I’d like to see all the vim, vigor, and vigilance Apple applies to making sure no app on the App Store is making a dime without Apple getting three cents applied instead to making sure there aren’t any scams or ripoffs, and that popular apps support good-citizen-of-the-platform features within a reasonable amount of time after those features are introduced in the OS. I don’t know exactly how long “reasonable” is, but five fucking years for split-screen support ain’t it.

If technology companies often don’t understand (or prioritize) security and privacy, why do we think governments do? From the New York Times:

Norway is one of many countries that rushed out apps to trace and monitor the coronavirus this spring, only to scramble to address serious complaints that soon arose over extensive user data-mining or poor security practices. Human rights groups and technologists have warned that the design of many apps put hundreds of millions of people at risk for stalking, scams, identity theft or oppressive government tracking — and could undermine trust in public health efforts. The problems have emerged just as some countries are poised to deploy even more intrusive technologies, including asking hundreds of thousands of workers to wear virus-tracking wristbands around the clock.

In fact, “the vast majority” of virus-tracing apps used by governments lack adequate security and ‘are easy for hackers’ to attack, according to a recent software analysis by Guardsquare, a mobile app security company.

The need for local communities and neighborhoods to have autonomy to make the right decisions during COVID, backed by data and science, not just opinion. From the New York Times:

Far from Denver, pushed up against the Utah border, Mesa County is known for its stunning flat-topped mountains and abundant outdoor activities. Residents are proud of their record so far on the coronavirus — just 55 known cases, and nearly all have already recovered — but some worry about the price the county has paid.

The largest country music festival in Colorado has been canceled. So has the Junior College Baseball World Series. Despite getting state permission to open some businesses ahead of the rest of Colorado, many in the county are struggling — and patience is thinning.

“Obviously we don’t want to let it get away from us, we don’t want to ruin a good thing, but did it really have to be this level of shutdown?” said Doug Simons, a third-generation owner of Enstrom Candies, which has five retail stores that have remained open as essential businesses.

“There was a real reluctance from our leaders to let things open back up, even though we had practically zero disease in our community,” he said. “I thought: ‘What the heck is going on? We don’t have any cases here and we’re being told to shut down like it’s New York City.’

See you next month. We’ll keep fighting for your #digitalrights.

Michael Nguyễn
Head of Operations, Bitmark
www.bitmark.com

Hi Everyone,

In the United States (where I am), we’re currently seeing states starting to open up due to political and economic pressure. It seems like there’s too much pressure from the top (President Trump) and the bottom (unemployment) to hold people on extreme lockdowns any longer, but this is driving a bigger question of “how do we all operate in this environment without creating a runaway pandemic?”

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, this need is why we’re building Autonomy, a neighborhood public health forecasting tool. A couple of weeks ago, Autonomy won Cohack, an online hackathon co-organized by the Taiwanese and the US governments with the goal of developing sophisticated solutions for managing the coronavirus pandemic.

You can learn about how we protect user privacy in hopes to activate mass participation in public health on our website. You can also sign up to get notified once Autonomy is out. Currently, we’re still in internal testing and we expect to have exciting announcements about launch partners soon.

In other news, Bitmark was named a 2020 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Personally speaking, I am really happy to see our mission to restore trust in data validated at a global level.

In other COVID-19 related thoughts:

– Michael C. Lu, MD, MPH, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley talked about fighting future pandemics in the Washington Post:

First, we can create a global early warning system. Much like systems for tsunamis and earthquakes, an early warning system could allow for early detection of and rapid response to an outbreak before it spreads. It would gather intelligence through a combination of zoonotic reconnaissance, artificial intelligence (AI) surveillance and outbreak investigation.” 

– Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist on the state of America’s handling of the crisis in the New York Times:

The problem, Garrett added, is bigger than Trump and older than his presidency. America has never been sufficiently invested in public health. The riches and renown go mostly to physicians who find new and better ways to treat heart disease, cancer and the like. The big political conversation is about individuals’ access to health care.

But what about the work to keep our air and water safe for everyone, to design policies and systems for quickly detecting outbreaks, containing them and protecting entire populations? Where are the rewards for the architects of that?

– How Japanese are living with COVID-19 on What Japan Thinks. Health isn’t simply about our physical symptoms, it includes our mental health, it includes how the people around us affect us. Until there’s a safe way for people to participate in these discussions, we cannot hope to move health significantly forward.

– Contact Tracing isn’t the simple solution we’re all hoping helps us get back to normalcy, as Ars Technica suggests. The reason why? Trust. The same companies that use our data at their will and hide behind complex terms of use to justify doing so are now asking us to trust them with our safety. Related to that, The Verge discusses how contact tracing technology by itself cannot be the solution. A year ago, Bitmark Ambassador Bunnie Huang told us that Technology is not Magic.

– What’s the line between privacy / freedom and safety? It’s easy to be cynical about the need for privacy when people seem to share more than ever. Well-regarded venture capitalist Fred Wilson shares his perspective.

– Why is public health so important? Because modern society depends on it, yet the incentives, as discussed by Modern Healthcare, to fund it continue to ensure future pandemics.

The Trust for America’s Health estimates public health efforts are about $4.5 billion underfunded. That’s led state and local health departments woefully unprepared to address public health emergencies such as infectious disease outbreaks, extreme weather events, and the opioid crisis.

“One could argue that there has always been underfunding but it is more meaningful at a period of time when cuts haven’t been restored and risks have increased,” said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health.

– Context into Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”, from NPR.

Thanks for reading, and keep up the support for #digitalrights.

Stay safe!

Michael Nguyễn
Head of Operations, Bitmark
www.bitmark.com

It’s been a stressful last few months for everyone at Bitmark, and I am sure you or many people you know have been struggling as well. After the last newsletter, we had expected to launch Spring, our app to help people get their Facebook data, understand it, and eventually use it under their own control.

As we saw the suffering caused by COVID-19, however, we felt an obligation to use our resources to help.

You may already know that through our past efforts in healthcare, our team has learned from patients around the world who suffered greatly from data breaches or were denied access to their health data. Since then, these insights have led our work to put individuals in full control of their data. Our past projects include helping Pfizer match patients to clinical trials while preserving privacy, UC Berkeley safely source health data from underrepresented populations for public health studies, and H2 form the world’s first data trust to cure diabetes.

As we spoke with people about the impact of COVID-19, we learned that people understood what was going on at a greater regional level, but did not know what this meant specifically for them. Was anyone in their neighborhood affected? Were certain areas nearby less exposed to the virus than others? Where would it be safe to take family for a walk?

In response, we are building Autonomy to answer these questions through local neighborhood health forecasts. These forecasts are presented through a numerical score that encapsulates the relative danger of a neighborhood. Autonomy learns from data provided by you, those near you, and verified public sources – every so often, you’ll receive a notification when your neighborhood’s health forecast has changed and requests to share information about how you are doing. Your privacy is always protected.

While Autonomy was created to help measure the spread of COVID-19, our vision is for much wider applicability by enabling mass participation in public health. In the future it might detect cancer clusters or assess how common the cold is in your local community. It might help to evaluate the precise effects of pollution or allergens on our health. It can be an early warning system, a danger assessor, and an analytic research tool. It can help us all to get better. Together.

We expect to launch Autonomy next week in Taiwan, and we are talking with partners throughout the US and Europe to help us support local communities – Autonomy needs local, verified data along with advocates to get the word out. If you can help, please reach out to me. As with the Bitmark protocol, Autonomy is open-source software and available for anyone to use, validate, or modify for themselves.

To join the waiting list or learn more, visit https://bitmark.com/products/autonomy/faq

Thanks for reading, and keep up the support for #digitalrights.

Michael Nguyễn
Head of Operations, Bitmark
www.bitmark.com

Happy new decade! I hope you’re not looking for the unsubscribe button already – we have not sent a newsletter in a very long time. There are a number of reasons for that, but I’ve been mainly wondering about what you wanted when you originally signed up.

No one likes getting junk in their email and I certainly do not want to waste your time.

Next week, we’re going to release our new app Spring to the Apple iOS and Android app stores. I will send you a separate email about that soon. I’m very excited to tell you about it.

Here’s what I’d like to do moving forward, however. Each month, I can give you an update on how Bitmark is doing:

  • Any recent media coverage
  • Past and upcoming events
  • News on current projects, partners, and products
  • Interesting articles that we’ve been sharing internally

For example, a few months ago, we ran an “Artist-to-Peer” (A2P) experiment with renown artist Casey Reas that was covered by WIRED and also Artnome. We see computational art as the beachhead into the larger art market. How, and Why, Artists Exchange Work (NYT article) and Fluxus show how this method has worked in the past. Reas, along with three other curators, selected 75 of the top artists working with digital formats. Each artist made an original digital artwork that was registered to the Bitmark system. From that artwork, 11 tradable editions were generated, each with its own unique provenance. The artists then had one week to build a personal art collection by trading their editions with one another.

You can relive this trading experience for yourself at: https://a2p.bitmark.com/

Sean also spoke on the UFO podcast (100K followers), was interviewed by DigiTimes for our work in health, presented Spring at UC Berkeley, was a panelist at the 4th Taiwan Blockchain Summit 2019, and spoke at RadicalXChange Berlin about  “Data Dignity and Digital Property Rights” and “Data Dignified Healthcare” with Robert Miller (ConsenSys), Nicolas Della Penna (MIT), Anish Mohammed (SRH Berlin). Bitmark represented Taiwan at the Singapore FinTech Festival, which hosted 60,000 people from 130 countries.

Sean’s talk in Berlin can be watched on YouTube.

I’d love to hear from you, more soon.

Michael Nguyễn
Head of Operations, Bitmark
www.bitmark.com