Thematic Report

Privacy as a product

by Shaun Cochran / Apr 2, 2019


We suspect Facebook’s reported consideration of a cryptocurrency could be a means to finance the development of privacy-based messaging anchored products. This comes just as the US primary process (Democrats) is seeing loud calls for much greater regulatory teeth against the major internet platforms. The common thread is the emerging idea of ‘privacy as a product’. Elsewhere, we see consistent but slow progress in the key themes of autonomy and Crispr.

How a Facebook coin could displace the card cartels
Our concerns around Facebook have focused on conflicts of interest on privacy. In this context recent press reports of plans for a cryptocurrency make a lot of sense to us. The speculated crypto token would reportedly be a stable coin pegged to a fiat currency and facilitate instant domestic and cross border payments between contacts. Facebook’s global infrastructure and reach to over 2.7bn users makes it one of the few companies in the world capable of upending the dominant global card models.

The demand for digital privacy builds as the seeds of supply are planted
Developments in March demonstrate the unrelenting momentum behind global efforts for greater oversight of big tech; consistent with our thesis, Europe is leading the fight. The EU Parliament approved amendments to the Copyright Directive which require major platforms to ensure the owners of copyright material get paid when it is used. In the USA, 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed plans to break up the tech giants with ‘anti-competitive mergers’ directly in her crosshairs.

Crispr commercialisation traction greatest outside therapeutics
Progress in the crispr space reinforces our conviction that diagnostics holds greater potential for nearer-term commercialisation than therapeutics. Mammoth Biosciences, a company on Theorality’s radar, edged closer to a point-of care disease diagnostics kit with the addition of the ‘Cas14’ enzyme to its tool box. Whereas 23andMe, a consumer genetics start up, has commercialised a service to test predisposition to Type-2 diabetes with a subsequent care plan for those at risk.

Autonomy players prepare for tough commercialisation ramp
There are growing signs that the autonomy industry (and Waymo specifically) are preparing for commercialisation despite slow progress on ramping-up ridership. The first is that the group is reportedly looking to sell its Lidar technology to third parties, providing they do not compete with the Waymo One autonomous taxi service. The second is the establishment of a service centre for its fleet in Phoenix Arizona to double its potential capacity. This suggests to us that expectations of multi-city fleets within three-to-five years remain reasonable but these fleets may prove initially small.