60 Seconds with an IBM scientist

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Who: Jan Camenisch
Location: IBM Research – Zurich
Nationality: Swiss

Focus: Privacy and Cryptography

Photo credit Bruno Schlatter

“Whenever we engage in electronic transactions we leave digital footprints, and similar to Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the moon, they never disappear. While I can’t and don’t want to stop users from benefiting from online technologies, I want to make it easier for them to use these tools without disclosing their full identity.

“For the past 15 years I have been developing an authentication technology called Identity Mixer as one way to prove you are, for example, a teenager — but without revealing your entire date of birth. The latter is realized with what is known as a zero-knowledge proof.

“Consider a Rubik’s Cube: if you scramble the cube and I turn around and solve it without showing you how, that is an example of a zero-knowledge proof. And we can do the same thing for your identity with digital signatures, e-cash, and e-voting (read Jan’s award winning paper here).

“Many consider personal data the new currency of our digital world. As we protect our financial assets, we very likely will protect and manage our personal data and identities in the same, in the future.”

Insider Tip:

“Whenever possible, understand what privacy features are available when using social media and mobile apps. Put simply, don’t do anything online that some criminal can take advantage of, whether it’s your date of birth, or stating you are at home or on vacation.”

Jan was recently named an IEEE Fellow for contributions to privacy-enhancing cryptographic protocols. To see Jan’s publications and projects click here.

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