Vaccine passports are in the news of late. The Washington Post recently broke the story of how the Biden administration has been gathering information from the tech community and policy makers as it seeks to provide guidance on the development and rollout of a government sanctioned vaccine passport or certificate.
While many agree that such a document could speed commerce and accelerate business recovery from the Pandemic, the concept is controversial and has unfortunately become politicised.
Virtru CEO John Ackerly believes his company’s encryption platform could be the answer to a privacy compliant solution predicated on personal ownership of the data.
“The vaccination passport concept is not new, there have been immunisation passports for decades, and there have always been concerns, even back when the US passport was first put in place at the turn of the century, around National IDs and privacy. I think ultimately these are very helpful tools to get the wheels of commerce moving,” says Ackerly.
His idea is to have a passport just like those currently issued by governments using the same system, with the big difference being the ability for the individual to have control over the vaccine data. Few people have problems with Passports as they exist now, nor would they become an equity issue for those without access to a digital version through a smart phone as long as there was a paper alternative.
“That is possible today and Virtru is enabling it in the intelligence community and at the Department of Defence where data can be shared, audited and controlled in a very simple way. And these kinds of approaches can be super useful in giving the public the confidence to embrace these tools,” states Ackerly.
In this way, the government only authorises entities for a specific period of time to have access for the specific purpose. After the specific purpose has been realised, then the government can’t access it. It is all based on the choice of the person using it, rather controlled by government or a third-party.
“We have a couple of partners in the space that have purchased our SDKs to basically enable the privacy through their work flow, though they have not fully implemented it yet. So, we are encouraging them to move faster,” says Ackerly.
Co-founded by CEO John Ackerly and his brother and CTO, Will Ackerly, in 2012, Virtru positions itself as providing the technology that empowers organisations to easily unlock the power of data while maintaining control, everywhere it’s stored and shared.
While working in national security, the co-founders experienced the unmet necessity for secure sharing first hand. As a White House policy advisor during 9/11, John saw how secure data sharing and collaboration could have helped connect the dots and save lives.
John’s younger brother Will spent eight years at the National Security Agency (NSA) where he specialised in cloud analytic and security architecture and experienced similar frustrations with data silos in the intelligence community. During Will’s time at the NSA, he created the Trusted Data Format (TDF) encryption program so analysts and operators could confidently share data and collaborate across organisations.
John and Will built the business based off of the TDF encryption protocol with the belief that privacy is both an economic and national security imperative. Today, the business touts over 6,000 paying enterprise customers and another 15 million consumers who have downloaded their free browser extension.
Of its “freemium” strategy to give their basic encryption API away for free, Ackerly says, “It’s the right thing to do. Will and I are very mission focused on this based on why we started the business. And it just makes sense from a business standpoint, you want to build awareness, you want people to use the technology. Some of those free users end up being administrators within companies.”
While the company is growing fast in a fast growing market (data encryption currently represents a $4 billion global market and is expected to grow 16.8% annually to reach nearly $9 billion by 2025, according to Grandview Research) John wants the company to remain independent. “We want Virtru to be the trusted provider of encryption technology helping enterprises and government agencies use the tech at scale,” says Ackerly.
With the backing of nearly $80 million in venture capital from ICONIQ, Bessemer, New Enterprise and others, John envisions the company going public in the next five years in order to fully realise his and his brother’s vision. “The people adopting us want that trusted provider that allows them to focus on the key management and policy framework and the TDF implementation to make all this happen,” concludes Ackerly.