As data mining expands, so too, do users’ concerns over how to keep their data from falling into the hands of the wrong people. 

While the public has been concerned about tech giants like Facebook collecting personal data, investors and companies at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal were eyeing technologies that promise to mine data without infringing privacy. 

“We need to let those tech giants collect data and use it” in a way that will improve the digital services we use every day, market research firm IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo said, according to CNBC’s live tweets

Venture capital is increasingly finding investment opportunities in protected data mining. London-based Privitar, founded in 2014, set out to help companies achieve “ethical and safe” use of data. With built-in privacy features, Privitar’s software analyzes customers’ digital footprints while preserving their data privacy. Its products mask or generalize sensitive information, but retain useful patterns in data to inform companies, according to Privitar’s website

With growing privacy concerns and debate about possible regulation, industry leaders are seeking to build trust with the public. 

“When we talk about trust, people want to know are we creating a future we can control — we the people, and the public, can control,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said at the event.

Private investments in the AI-powered cybersecurity startups have been increasing steadily, with 2019’s total $1.27 billion surpassing last year’s $961 million, according to PitchBook data. Tel Aviv-based Riskified just raised $165 million in Series E on Tuesday, the second largest amount raised in the field. 

  • VC firm Accel has shown particular focus on cybersecurity. Among 36 portfolio companies focusing on security, San Francisco-based Lookout is conspicuous for both its unicorn status and its $201 million Series F in 2015, which is the highest investment in cybersecurity ever.
  • “There’s a lot of value in data, how can you leverage the value of data without infringing on the privacy of the people,” Accel partner Philippe Botteri said at the event.