Using Blockchain to Keep Public Data Public

Using Blockchain to Keep Public Data Public

  
 

In early February, President Trump’s administration made a change to the White House website. The site’s digital updates are often small and insignificant — updating a photo, fixing a broken link — and therefore may go unnoticed. But this one was different, and it could have an impact on every single American. The update eliminated the White House’s open data.

On the surface, those 9 gigabytes of data sets may seem inconsequential: They include White House visitor logs, the titles and salaries of every White House employee, and government budget data. But that information helps to ensure transparency in government. It helps reporters and citizens figure out who has the ear of the president and his staff, for example. In response to this very issue, Democrats have introduced the Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or MAR-A-LAGO Act, legislation that would require the Trump administration to publish visitor logs for the White House and any other location where the president regularly conducts official business.

The Obama administration drastically increased the openness of government data, codifying it with an executive order that made open, machine-readable data the new default for government information, to ensure that we have transparency in government. So although the Trump administration’s moves are a return to the opacity of past administrations, it’s a move in the wrong direction. Perhaps most important is what this could mean for the U.S. government’s entire open data strategy, as the administration controls the information that so many businesses, organizations, and individual Americans depend on daily.

If you checked the weather this morning, you relied on information that was supplied by government open data. Used GPS to get to a meeting? That information was supplied by government open data. Received an alert that the baby crib you purchased was recalled? That, too, was supplied by government open data. Unfortunately, it’s not just the Trump administration that has been caught deleting or altering important data. Companies are doing it too. Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests. Uber showed fake information about available drivers to government employees. And Airbnb was caught purging more than 1,000 listings, which were in violation of New York state law, just before it shared its data with the public as part of a pledge “to build an open and transparent community.”

Data is under attack. And it is the leaders of our government and economy who are waging this war. They have made it acceptable to manipulate raw data in a way that benefits them financially or politically — and it has lowered public confidence in the veracity of information. These are institutions we rely on every day to make the policy and business decisions that affect our economy and society at large. If anyone is allowed to simply change a number or delete a data set, who — and what — are citizens supposed to believe? How can we get our data back? The answer lies with the public — public blockchains, to be specific.

How Blockchain Works

The first public blockchain was conceived of as a way to record financial transactions, but people have started using it as a way to timestamp the existence of digital files, such as documents or images. The public blockchain establishes that a specific person or entity had possession of a file at a specific date and time. Useful for patent or copyright claims, the blockchain could also ensure that a government agency or company verifiably published its data — and allow the public to access and confirm that the file they have is the same one that was signed and time-stamped by the creator.

The timestamp and signature alone don’t prove that the data is accurate, of course. Other forms of checks and balances, such as comparing data against tax or SEC filings, can be added to ensure that there are legal ramifications for entities that manipulate their data. In the same way, government data, like employment or climate data, could be checked against local, state, or academically collected information that has already been time-stamped and signed by credible institutions.

How technology is transforming transactions.

Using the public blockchain in this manner would not only address our data access and manipulation issues but also lay the groundwork for a better system to more efficiently and effectively regulate the fastest-moving startups. Some tech companies, with their near-instantaneous feedback loops, believe they can regulate their ecosystems more efficiently and effectively than governments can, with its antiquated, in-person inspection efforts. And there’s some truth to that. Right now, many local and state governments regulate ride sharing and home sharing in ways similar to how they regulate taxis and hotels, with a combination of police officers, signs, and consumer complaints through 3-1-1 calls. At the same time, governments have watched these startups manipulate their data, and are therefore reticent to trust a company that might put its financial motivations ahead of regulation.

With each party wary of the other’s motives and practices, it’s been difficult to settle on a compromise. But if governments and emerging technology companies used the public blockchain, both parties could achieve what they want. Companies could move fast, and consumer safety and rights would be protected. As respected venture capitalist and author Tim O’Reilly says, “Regulations, which specify how to execute laws in much more detail, should be regarded in much the same way that programmers regard their code and algorithms — that is, as a constantly updated tool set to achieve the outcomes specified in the laws.”

Conceivably, companies would update their information to the blockchain, with secure mechanisms put in place to protect individual and corporate privacy, and the government would use this data, submitted in real time, to apply local laws to those companies, their employees or contractors, and consumers. The government agency responsible for overseeing the industry would then analyze data, such as consumer feedback ratings and other relevant information (for example, whether ride-sharing drivers take tourists on a longer route), to improve safety and better protect the rights of everyone involved. In other words, the government would use lightweight algorithmic regulation to protect local citizen rights and safety.

The public blockchain would fundamentally change the way we govern and do business. Rather than asking companies and consumers to downgrade their digital interactions in order to comply with the law, the government would create an adaptable system that would reduce the amount of paperwork and compliance for businesses and consumers. Rather than force emerging technologies and business models into legal gray areas, the government would use algorithmic regulation to create a level playing field for incumbent companies in their respective industries.

Unless we tackle our crisis of data now, distrust between government, businesses, and citizens will reach an untenable peak. The growth and innovation of our startup economy will be stunted, and the ability for local and state governments to effectively govern will simply erode. We need open data to keep making important business and policy decisions — and we need to put it back into the hands of the public. Our data problem doesn’t have to be a crisis. It can be an opportunity — a chance for our business leaders and policy makers to rebuild a foundation of trust in the critical data we all depend on.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin Blockchain to Help Collect Customers & Activate Consumption in Japan

Bitcoin Blockchain to Help Collect Customers & Activate Consumption in Japan

  

Bitcoin Blockchain to Help Collect Customers & Activate Consumption in Japan

Loyalty schemes are regular marketing tools used by businesses to retain customers. However, when the system of collecting benefits is complicated and is not well-thought-through, the customer is left unsatisfied. In Japan, many credit card companies are giving loyalty award points to the end-users as an incentive to use their cards. End-users can exchange the loyalty points for services or products they want.

The main drawback is that they need to go through complex steps on a website or call an operator. As a result, the liquidity of the loyalty point is quite low. This observation has brought Digital Garage to the idea of creating a new marketing solution that will simplify the monetization of loyalty points. And here is where the adaptation of the Blockchain worked perfectly to realize the idea.

Blockchain and digital currencies as a solution

According to Taro Watanabe, operating officer at Digital Garage, the company is building a real-time exchange system that enables end-users to use the loyalty points just like a currency based on the Blockchain technology in conjunction with Blockstream and one of three major credit card companies as well as their business partner Credit Saison.

Thus, end-users can instantly exchange their loyalty points into other digital value which can be used at any location. The same system can be used for regional currencies. It means that the Blockchain-based Digital Garage product can work globally and potentially everywhere digital currencies exist and are accepted.

  

A solution that DG Lab will implement with Blockchain

Digital Garage also has plans to develop a system that will release machine automated contracts – i.e. help the execution of contracts based on the regulations and business practices in Japan based on the Blockchain technology. As for loyalty support service, they intend to partner with major credit card companies, local governments as well as local shopping districts so that they will encourage their customers to use their exchange service which runs on top of Digital Garage platform.

Users can exchange loyalty points and/or local currencies for a service and/or a product at their choice in real-time which is not provided so far in Japan. In addition to that, they are already providing many payment methods provided by third-parties including Alipay, PayPal or other standard payment systems.

Bitcoin is the most secure digital currency

Digital Garage is confident that Bitcoin is the most secure digital currency at this point since it is based on the Blockchain technology which has yet to be tampered with since its invention. Taro Watanabe believes that public Blockchain technology based on Bitcoin will bring fundamental change to the financial business model.

He says to Cointelegraph:

“Public Blockchain technology based on Bitcoin has a strong capability for security and stability; we believe the current situation is a transitional period that needs more scaling in functionality. Bitcoin Core’s open source community is challenging this and proceeding with the development of the scaling function for uses other than virtual currency.”

In fact, Digital Garage has all the cards at hand to be a trigger in the development of Bitcoin usage and boost Blockchain in Japan. They plan to contribute to the Bitcoin Core open source community, expand the developer community first in Japan and then promote the idea of Blockchain as a social infrastructure through development and education.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Sweden’s blockchain-powered land registry is inching towards reality

Sweden’s blockchain-powered land registry is inching towards reality

 

Just another set of numbers on a blockchain.

Keeping track of who owns what pieces of land is still a low-tech affair, involving mountains of hand-signed documents, envelopes, and couriers. That is if a country is lucky enough to have a functioning land registry—the World Bank estimates that 70% of the world’s population lacks access to land titling. Getting everyone to agree on every stage of a property transaction, and to record it permanently somewhere, is a feat of security, coordination, and trust.

Enter blockchain technology, the technical concept behind bitcoin, which is designed to solve precisely those problems, or so its boosters say. Land titling has long been one of the most talked-about uses for the tech. The argument, made by everyone from the British government to consultants at PwC, is that the current outmoded systems are susceptible to forgeries and simple clerical errors. It’s one reason why the US has a massive title insurance industry, which the New York Times has called a “scam” (paywall). Putting transactions on a blockchain makes all that paper go away; and it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to forge records.

A blockchain is a digital registry that can’t be tampered with. It provides a mechanism for various parties to agree on a set of facts. It prevents those parties from making false statements since everyone else can check the facts; it also prevents statements from being changed after they’ve been recorded, since all parties are alerted to these changes. With bitcoin, for instance, the blockchain acts as a ledger of every transaction, thus providing proof of who owns how many bitcoins.

But while bitcoin is an example of a public blockchain, where all transactions are open to the public, financial and other institutions are trying to create private blockchains, where some data is available only to certain participants.

The Swedish experiment

Sweden is the country that’s furthest along in putting land registries on a blockchain, and it’s entering the next phase of its experiment. It’s also notable because it’s one of the few wealthy countries taking this seriously; in places, with well-developed land registries there’s usual resistance to adopting a new system. The already highly digitized Swedish land registry gives the country a shot at making this work.

Sweden’s land registry authority is called the Lantmäteriet. Since last June the body has been testing a way to record property transactions on a blockchain. This could save the Swedish taxpayer over €100 million ($106 million) a year by eliminating paperwork, reducing fraud, and speeding up transactions, according to an estimate by the consultancy Kairos Future, which is also involved in the project.

The blockchain experiment concluded its second phase of testing on March 31. This also involved the phone company Telia and two Swedish banks. Whereas the first phase was essentially a presentation of the technology’s potential, this latest phase involved the creation of smart contracts that automate transactions on a blockchain. For instance, instead of the buyer and seller signing a bill of sale at the agent’s office, this can now be done with digital signatures that are verified automatically. “We thought there was a solution [in the first phase],” said Magnus Kempe of Kairos. “Now we have a solution.”

The Swedish system operates on a private blockchain. This has the land authority and others, like the banks, holding copies of the records. When a land title changes hands, each step of the process is verified and recorded on the blockchain (full details in this pdf). The system acts as a highly secure and transparent verification and storage service for property transactions, but it stops short of a full-blown cryptocurrency where land can be bought and sold as easily as a bitcoin. “There is no risk you will lose your land like you lose bitcoin,” Kempe says.

Digital trust

A blockchain is a good solution to the particular problem of trusting other parties, says Mats Snäll, the Lantmäteriet official in charge of the project.”Blockchain technology offers real digital trust,” he says. “It’s the only solution so far that handles digital originals, verifies both legal actions and processes, and secures transparency.”

But for all of Snäll’s bullishness on the technology, Swedes probably won’t be getting their title deeds checked on a blockchain anytime soon. Legal obstacles, like the validity of digital signatures, need to be resolved. The soonest this system will be in place, if ever, is 2019, Snäll says. The project’s next phase, starting in May, is to integrate other Swedish public bodies, like the tax authority, Kempe says, who have expressed an interest in a permanent ledger of their own.

Yet the Swedish project may have an impact beyond its shores. Henrik Hjelte of Chromaway says land authorities from other countries have approached him for a blockchain solution of their own. Similar projects have been announced, with little public progress, in places like Georgia and Honduras. The steady work on the Swedish system might provide the technical assurances other states need to implement the technology. “We are replacing paper that has been around for several thousands of years,” says Hjelte. “It will take some time.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin Recognised as a Currency in Japan

Bitcoin Recognised  as a Currency in Japan

bitcoin recognised as a currency in japan

Bitcoin has finally gained the recognition of a mainstream currency along the lines of other fiat currencies. The privilege follows the implementation of a new law in Japan which categorizes Bitcoin as a legal payment option within the country. The much-awaited law went into effect on April 1, 2017 (beginning of a new fiscal year in many countries).

With the new law’s implementation, Bitcoin exchanges will also come under additional regulatory scrutiny. The recognition of cryptocurrency as a legal tender also means the applicability of regulations governing banks and financial institutions to cryptocurrency exchange platforms. They will be required to comply with strict anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, alongEntrepreneur with annual audits. Other requirements include meeting the stated capital and cyber security requirements to ensure consumer protection.

The recognition of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as legal payment instruments is good news for the global cryptocurrency ecosystem. Adoption of cryptocurrency is expected to increase among people, which will, in turn, drive demand and price.

However, reports indicate that the cryptocurrency platforms are still trying to figure out ways to achieve compliance with the new regulations. Recognizing the exchanges’ needs, the Accounting Standards Board of Japan has announced that it has started working on creating an accounting framework for both user and businesses dealing with cryptocurrencies.

It might take a while before companies and individuals get acquainted with the accounting practices, which has raised concerns about legal implications of inaccurate reporting’s/filings due to lack of understanding. Also, few publications have raised concerns about the volatility of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and how it might impact those making cryptocurrency transactions.

The new developments are expected to drive the cryptocurrency usage in Japan to over $9 billion in the next three years (2020), which is more than five times the 2015’s $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in circulation.

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

 

Author: Gautham

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member