The Humanized Internet – Interview with Monique Morrow

Monique Morrow is president and co-founder of Humanized Internet, a non profit organization active in protecting the digital identities of under-represented populations. Her book on the subject will be published in April 2020, we had the chance to discuss some of the concept of the humanized internet with her beforehand. 

Cybersecurity Magazine: Why Humanized? – Are we morally disconnected online? 

Monique Morrow: Technology has no agency, so to better frame the question is how algorithms are created, for what purpose and by whom. The hypothesis is that we have a trust deficit and that our dependency in social media has perhaps fostered the proliferation of filter bubbles. The human must be in the loop, especially if we are referring to how Artificial Intelligence can be used responsibly. Recognizing and responding to cognitive bias therefore is an opportunity. We should also consider the role of ethics and governance in this discussion. As individuals we are all being profiled through technology. Take smart homes for example: these electronic products are listening, watching you. But who is listening? The potential for misuse is very strong. I want people to be aware of their use of these wonderful technologies We have a multi-prong focus, e.g. digital identity and ownership therein now in the form of Self Sovereign Identity or SSI. Ethics in technology and technology for social good. 

The vision of the Humanized Internet may be decomposed into three core messages. 

1. The first message is around the liberty of identity and a digital instantiation therein. Imagine you live in a country where there is war, and you have to leave immediately. Or imagine all your valuable documents have been lost in an earthquake or fire. Could we envision a distributed digital lockbox where we as individuals possess the digital keys? 

2. The second message is on control: are you in control over your identity, and do you care? Everyday a lot of identities are hacked and/or mis-used by the very organizations that citizens trust. There is a general malaise that has set in with individuals asserting either ‘that won’t happen to me’, or ‘it is already too late’
We do believe that it is not too late and yes, your digital identity can be abused. 

3. The third message is within ethics and technology As individuals we are all being profiled through technology. Take smart homes for example: these electronic products are listening, watching you. But who is listening? The potential for misuse is very strong. How can we define the intentional use of technology recognizing and responding to cognitive bias therein? 

This observation begs the question as to how a chasm may be resolved and by which
entities. What kind of social contract is required for the digital world we share? In the 21st century, fostered by the use of social media and the Internet, social contracts have been evolving to identity politics and the notion of multiple identities especially when referring to IoT and to the Internet of Everything and Everyone. Dignity and the struggle for recognition are provoking the requirement for a new social contract that can function in a digital world . Given the pattern of decentralization or a hybrid therein, a novel and relevant social contract must put the citizen in the center of the digital universe as an active player. 

Cybersecurity Magazine: “Trust and Transparency – is GDPR or NetNeutrality able to deliver this? Who should be empowered? 

Monique Morrow: Centralization of data whether in the form of governments, financial institutions, enterprises and organizations is simply being challenged, due to the lack of trust experienced in the form of data breaches or simply a monetization of our data without our permission. 

As the old adage goes, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair”. In a Gemalto study, 75% of consumers believe that companies do not take the protection and security of their data very seriously. This non-transparent use of citizen data makes it more compelling that a Digital Rights Framework that puts the citizen first in the center of this trust universe is needed. 

Trust and Transparency is about putting the individual in the center of this universe and I do believe that Self-Sovereign Identity or SSI is the way forward toward establishing selective data ownership rights with user- controlled data protocols. Users control their profiles and what information services can access. Perhaps 2020 and beyond will mark the era for active SSI. 

Cybersecurity Magazine: Blockchain or API which will ensure transparency and credibility of content? 

Monique Morrow: Blockchain has been evolving and certainly has the capability to assure transparency. I caution in putting Personal Identifiable Information or PII on the blockchain due to the immutable nature of blockchain. There are examples of institutions like universities in providing diplomas that are posted on the blockchain therein representing low-hanging fruit. Supply Chain whether in pharmaceuticals, food supply are viable use cases for the use of blockchain for track and trace flows and are concrete examples for transparency using this technology. 

Cybersecurity Magazine: With the convergence of internet with biotechnology, who would own the data? We are looking harvesting DNA for personalizing medicine, how can we democratize and avoid concentration of power? 

Monique Morrow: We MUST be in the center of that universe and control the data flow e.g Self- Sovereign Identity is an example here. Precision Medicine offers great opportunities for targeted cures but there are privacy concerns. Centralized systems are not secure and are easily corruptible, as well as vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is where blockchain and health care intersect. As Dr. Frances Hughes, healthcare activist and professional, states, “patients and consumers lack transparency, as well as health literacy, when it comes to some of the biggest decisions regarding their own lives and bodies.” Blockchain’s implications for reshaping health care are its abilities to provide “real time research data” when it comes to pharmaceutical safety and trials, audit and accreditation agencies, compliance processes, etc. With blockchain, the patient and consumer become fully in control of his/her own data, challenging the power structures of health providers and funders/insurers. No longer having healthcare services captured under others’ licenses, insurers, hospital administrators, etc. means transparency like never before, as well as security and trust. I emphasize the promise of Self-Sovereign Identity here. 

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Monique Morrow is the President and co-founder of a non-profit organization, The Humanized Internet, that focuses on providing digital identity for those groups that are most underserved. She is also a partner at Sparklabs Accelerator for Cybersecurity and Blockchain where she advises tech companies and organizations.

Morrow holds a master's degree in Telecommunications Management from Golden Gate University, and MBA from City University of Seattle (Zurich, Switzerland Program) and a BA in French from San Jose University. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Information Systems from the University of Southern California and a Diploma of Higher Studies from the University of Paris Sorbonne.


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