Will GDPR block Blockchain?

European Commission GDPR

(European Commission, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Anne Toth, Head of Data Policy, World Economic Forum LLC

As someone who has worked in data policy and data protection for 20 years, I read privacy policies for a living. I take notice when I get the occasional email telling me that a website is updating their privacy policy or terms of service. Lately, that trickle has become a torrent in my inbox. The thing they all have in common is the effective date – May 25, 2018, the day the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect.

GDPR is a unified privacy regulation that largely harmonizes the various and disparate legal frameworks that cover the more than half a billion European data subjects, or as I prefer to call them, people. GDPR gives specifically articulated rights to people over their data so that the phrase, “you own the data about you” has meaning.

These rights are enshrined in European law but making them actionable has not been simple. Adding complexity to the task is the fact that technology has a habit of changing quickly. It’s well known that technology often leapfrogs ahead of existing regulatory frameworks, leaving legislators and regulators to play catch-up. Consider the example of blockchain.

Blockchain has existed as a concept since 2008 but it has only recently exploded into public consciousness through valuations of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Many technologists believe that blockchain will be more transformational than the internet itself.

The global blockchain technology market is predicted to grow to 2.3 billion U.S. dollars by 2021

The global blockchain technology market is predicted to grow to 2.3 billion U.S. dollars by 2021

But whilst many people equate blockchain with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, they are not the same. “Blockchain is a cryptographically-secured transaction record that’s created without a central authority,” explains the World Economic Forum’s Head of Blockchain, Sheila Warren.

Blockchain data can’t be deleted. So will its applications be illegal?

Because blockchain relies on a distributed ledger system that is decentralized and immutable, it’s intended to be a permanent, tamper-proof record that sits outside the control of any one governing authority. This is what makes it such an attractive and useful technology. But because data stored on the blockchain, including personal data, can’t be deleted, there is no way to exercise the right to erasure that people are granted under GDPR. Blockchain is not designed to be GDPR-compatible. Or rather, GDPR is not blockchain-compatible the way it is written today.

While European policymakers were debating and finalizing aspects of GDPR, blockchain wasn’t on most people’s radar. This is yet another example of where regulation is addressing a problem in the rear view mirror rather than looking at the road ahead. This is the nature of most traditional regulation and illustrates how quickly technology shifts, pivots and morphs at a speed much greater than laws and regulations are designed to move. In this case, while we wait for the rules to play catch up, the question we have to ask is whether existing blockchain applications that store personal data are now rendered illegal in Europe until this is sorted.

Policy needs to be as flexible as technology

Government regulation has a critical role to play in creating accountability, ensuring responsible use of data and providing enforcement mechanisms to penalize bad actors. I am not arguing against regulation, nor am I arguing against GDPR. I am arguing instead for a layered and cooperative approach to policy making. We need future-flexible frameworks for governance that allow us to realize the benefits of data and technology while minimizing harms. This is much easier to say than to do.

If our collective goal is to ensure a future where we cure cancer in our lifetimes through better medical research, improve infrastructure and service delivery in connected cities, increase crop yields to feed more people, better understand and predict extreme weather patterns, create durable digital identities for refugees and people who have no documentation of their existence, provide more immediate disaster relief in times of crisis – then we will need to use data more than ever to realize these benefits.

Governments must work in collaboration with civil society, academia and the private sector to co-develop policy with a process that is as dynamic as technology. Policy makers and the regulatory processes they use need to be reimagined to be as nimble as the technology they seek to regulate, in order to help create the future we all want to see.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

G7 summit: Trump Vs. G6 leaders on trade and climate change

Switzerland to favour EU citizens in immigration quotas as the risk of a new referendum looms

“BEUC cautions against TTIP that would seek to align EU and US chemicals management frameworks”

Is the ECB ready to flood Eurozone with freshly printed money?

EU Commission: a rise in wages and salaries may help create more jobs

Big impact vs big exit: the social side of the start-up game presented at the WSA Global Congress in Vienna

EU Parliament: ECB accountable for not supporting real economy

Will the three major parties retain control of the new EU Parliament?

Has the treacherous theory about the ‘French patient’ finally prevailed?

Historical success for the First ever European Presidential Debate

After the Italian ‘no’ and the Brexit, Germans must decide which Europe they want

The world has made spectacular progress in every measure of well-being. So why does almost no one know about it?

Chinese “BeiDou” GPS goes to market

The next EU President will first have to drink his tea at Downing Street

How biotechnology is evolving in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Intel @ European Business Summit 2014: Better decisions now, the new business dashboard 

Migration crisis update: lack of solidarity not only among EU leaders but also EU officials

From inconvenience to opportunity: the importance of international medical exchanges

Afghanistan: UN envoy urges further extension of ceasefire with Taliban, as Eid ul-Fitr gets underway

German political spillovers: ECB’s Draghi resists first attacks by AfD

A Valentine’s Special: heart has nothing to do with it, it’s all Brain

ECB settles the bank resolution issue, makes banking union tangible

EU-Russia relations: the beginning of a warmer winter?

European banking stress tests 2014: A more adverse approach for a shorter banking sector

Is history a new NATO weapons against Russia?

The IMF overstates the risks for Eurozone and downgrades the threats for the US economy

Here are 4 of the most politically charged World Cup games ever played

Military escalation will have ‘serious consequences’ for Yemeni civilians, warns UN Special Envoy

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

Glaringly false reassurances about the repercussions of the EU-US free trade agreement

A Sting Exclusive: “Regional Policy: a fully-fledged investment policy”, Commissioner Cretu reveals live from European Business Summit 2015

MWC 2016 LIVE: 5G to embrace unlicensed bands and Wi-Fi

Hollande protects the euro from the attacks of extremists

Is Britain to sail alone in the high seas of trade wars?

A new world that demands new doctors in the fourth industrial revolution

“China will strive to enhance the performance of economic growth”, President Xi highlights from the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos

Greece lost a month that cannot be found neither in “mini Summits” nor in Berlin

Ethiopia will soon introduce visa-free travel for all Africans

The miserables and the untouchables of the economic crisis

How will Brexit affect higher education in the EU?

Paris agreed with Berlin over a loose and ineffective banking union

Banks, insurance giants are free again to abuse the real economy

World Health Organisation and medical students: is there any room for improvement?

China’s New Normal and Its Relevance to the EU

Education and Training: where do we stand in 2014?

The European Sting @ European Business Summit 2014 – the preview

Let’s Learn

Migration Crisis: how to open the borders and make way for the uprooted

Migration has set EU’s political clock ticking; the stagnating economy cannot help it and Turkey doesn’t cooperate

This crisis cannot be confronted with statistics

The DNA of the future retail CEO

“Fortress Europe”, “Pegida” and its laughing stocks

Warmongers ready to chew what is left of social protection spending

US-North Korea summit in Singapore ‘a promising development’ says Guterres

UN warns of ‘deteriorating climate’ for human rights defenders in Guatemala

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

EDRi @ European Business Summit 2014: Digital Citizenship in Brussels – the case of Net Neutrality

Are you breathing plastic air at home? Here’s how microplastics are polluting our lungs

Trump questions US – Europe kinship, approaches Russia

Here’s how China is going green

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s