Disintermedi-Nation: Blockchain and the Potential to Own Your Own Data - Institute on Governance

Disintermedi-Nation: Blockchain and the Potential to Own Your Own Data

2 minute read

No matter where you live, trust in your government is likely low. This makes government an ideal adopter of blockchain, the technology that fundamentally changes the principles of digital trust. Governments can capitalize on this technology to build trust though transparency and by reducing friction in transactional services with citizens.

In Canada, all three levels of government are experimenting in this space. The first Canadian government blockchain project was a proof-of-concept that used a private blockchain network to join up provincial business registries, improving client experience by simplifying the process of sharing records between provinces. In a similar project, the municipality of Toronto and the province developed a proof-of-concept to put restaurant licensing on a blockchain. Canada’s National Research Council recently used the Ethereum public blockchain to increase transparency of the administration of government contracts.

European nation Georgia was the first government to use a public blockchain, the Bitcoin network, to post land title transfers transactions. While the transactions themselves take place on a private blockchain, it is not difficult to envision the ultimate disintermediation: government ceding control of transactions they previously intermediated to the public domain.  

Currently, personal data lies largely out of one’s control. Government bodies mediate and record a multitude of transactions and hold huge numbers of records, housed in centralized databases, which are breached with increasing regularity.

So what if individuals held their own personal information, outside of centralized government databases? Personally held information on a blockchain would not only address the issue of data security, but also allow individuals to have control over their own information, and to use it as they see fit.

Personal data is an incredibly valuable commodity, so much so that private companies that incentivize users to give their data away have ascended to a new echelon of value. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Facebook reported a market cap of over $500B and 2.2B monthly active users. While it would be simplistic to derive the value of an average user from those figures, it illustrates the immense value that personal data holds.

Should citizens be given the agency to hold, share, and even sell their personal data? How much would a company in the health care sector pay to secure your health and demographic data as a tool for research and development? How much would an advertising agency pay to know your income, household composition, and location?

Blockchain presents the opportunity for this reality: the disintermediation of government as custodians of citizen data.

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