Hello, please introduce yourself!

Hi! My name’s Matt. I would describe myself as a machine learning person who “has seen how the sausage is made”. By this, I mean that while I am incredibly excited by the potential positive impact that ML models can have when trained on “the right data”, I also feel that often “the right data” is private and personal, and we must use appropriate controls to ensure that the value we get out of the ML model does not come at the expense of individuals’ privacy. This is what has driven me to spend a lot of time working in the privacy-preserving ML space, and is why I have joined the ranks of Bitfount - where we’re working hard to solve this problem! I am a keen runner (although my aptitude in this arena is diminishing with age), sports fan, wine enthusiast, dog owner.

What does your role as Head of Engineering at Bitfount involve?

One significant aspect of my day-to-day work, is to help navigate the technical landscape of privacy-enhancing technologies, whilst understanding the needs of our customers, so that we can put together a valuable technical roadmap that will get cutting-edge solutions into the hands of our customers that they actually need. Another aspect of my day to day is all about helping make sure the excellent team of engineers we have at Bitfount are well set up to do their best work, free from any hindrances, and that they have a clear understanding of how they can help us execute on our goals. Also, I approve holiday requests :)

How did you get into this field?

During my time working in Siri’s speech recognition team at Apple - we were striving to make Siri ‘more personal’. And naturally, the only way to achieve this is to get more ‘personal’ data. At this point we realised we needed to start working on the problem of learning over distributed data, in a privacy preserving way, and the rest is history!

What challenges are you working on right now?

It is a really exciting time right now, as it is all about our big next step - open beta. We can’t wait to see how people out there will use our platform, but before we can unleash Bitfount on the world, we have a lot of really cool features to polish up. So that’s what I’m focussed on right now - making sure we have all the goodies at launch date :)

What are the most important benefits that you believe data collaboration can bring, from a (business + sustainability) perspective?

If you want to understand a problem, and potentially find ways to address it, you need data. There are infinitely many problems out there that are begging to be understood, or solved. There are also infinitely many data sets out there, which may potentially be able to provide these answers - but in reality - getting and using this data is incredibly difficult for any number of reasons, be they technical, regulatory, logistical, political, and so on. This is why we need to make data collaboration possible in a privacy-reserving way. Without it, society won’t be able to understand and solve its most interesting and important problems in a meaningful way.


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