Software company Brave has published details of a new data collection method that is supposed to be able to guarantee user privacy by default.
Developed by a team of its researchers, the STAR system is designed to remove trust from the equation by providing a technical guarantee of user privacy based on cryptographic techniques.
The technology will be optionally implemented in a range of Brave products (including its popular web browser) and will be considered for standardization by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
Data collection, but private
In an ideal world, users would not be required to share any of their personal or usage data with software developers. But the reality is that data collection is an important part of ensuring software works properly and doesn't contain dangerous cybersecurity flaws.
The challenge developers face in a market where data collection is increasingly distrusted by consumers is how to collect telemetry data without compromising the needs of either stakeholder group.
“Legacy systems are extremely expensive to implement (making them unusable for all but the largest companies), require trusted third parties or special hardware, and/or require millions of users to achieve useful results,” Brave explained, in a post. blog (opens in a new tab).
"STAR, on the other hand, offers similar or better privacy guarantees than existing systems, while being practical and affordable for projects and organizations serving tens of millions of users."
Specifically, the STAR system is based on a premise known as k-anonymity, whereby the data points available to the collector are never unique to a specific individual. In practice, this means that the collector can never use the data values to form a picture of the original provider.
Although other data collection systems have implemented k-anonymity in the past, Brave claims that STAR can do so at a much lower performance cost, meaning no specialized hardware is required. According to the company's tests, its own system is "24 times cheaper than the existing state-of-the-art approach."
To encourage adoption of STAR, Brave has released the model (in both Rust and WASM versions) under the Mozilla Public License v2, which gives any organization the right to adopt or modify the system as they see fit.
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