Innovation in the time of COVID-19: our Interview with Sightline Innovation

A startup serving clients at the cross-section of healthcare and data privacy

by Molly Hoffmeyer

As individuals, businesses, and governments, we’re all experiencing unexpected challenges arising from the unique behaviors of the coronavirus pandemic, which is distinct in its impact on our health, as well as our finances and information security .

Enter Sightline Innovation, a SixThirty portfolio company who is uniquely positioned to help businesses and governments tackle this challenge head on.

We had a chance to catch up with Co-Founder & COO, Mai Mavinkurve to discuss the longer-term impacts of this pandemic on data governance.

MH: With this highly contagious health crisis, everyone is correctly focused on “flattening the curve.” What impact does this have on our privacy and identity? How about for Sightline?

MM: As a result of the crisis, there has never been a greater imperative to track (and decrease) our movements and contacts to prevent and slow the spread of this disease. That being said, particularly in the Western world, we highly value our privacy, and must balance a need for tracking with important concerns regarding privacy and managing data access. This creates a real opportunity for data trust products, like Sightline.

Once people start to come out from their homes again, things cannot simply go “back to normal.” In fact, the need to track and monitor citizens more closely will continue be a great imperative to prevent additional waves and ensure that the pandemic remains controlled.

MH: How is Sightline uniquely positioned to be of value in this “next normal”?

MM: There is a heavy premium on trust in dealing with the crisis. Our data trust product allows healthcare organizations and governments in particular to have controls, have a trustee, have traceability & auditability, and ensure use of data in a clearly responsible way. This makes it easier for everyone to make a decision to use a tool ensuring that residents are healthy, while also being able to track it over time.

MH: Have you seen any changes in how potential customers view Sightline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?

MM: Right now the world is seeing a new narrative around the need for data trusts. We need the data to be accessible very quickly, in real time. And the data itself is very personal: health related data. If we are going to overcome the COVID-19 challenge, it is critical to freely share data and information, whether for AI tools or more case-by-case tracking of residents and citizens.

MH: What unique challenges do governments & healthcare organizations in the west face in adopting tracking technology to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

MM: The challenge for governments (in particular) is: how to do this without becoming a “big brother” surveillance state? From the beginning, Sightline has existed to solve this challenge, and not only for governments. Our data trust structure is decentralized and allows rules to be written around the data, for governance, collaboration and use. In this way, Sightline’s product is far ahead of many of their competitors.

MH: What about the longer-term picture for Sightline?

MM: The crisis will elevate the need for data trusts and highlight the need for tools like Sightline — for data sharing, collaboration and governance, between consumers, C2B and B2B, and elevate the profile for this type of infrastructure.

In the nearer term, Sightline is always looking for partners interested in deploying privacy preserving, data-driven COVID-19 response apps to build on our early success in Canada.

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