Is Distributed Ledger Technology Built for Personal Data?

Author: Henry Chang

Published in Journal of Data Protection & Privacy, Volume 1, Number 4, 2018.

Abstract: Some of the appealing characteristics of distributed ledger technology (DLT), which blockchain is a type of, include guaranteed integrity, disintermediation and distributed resilience. These characteristics give rise to the possible consequences of immutability, unclear ownership, universal accessibility and trans-border storage. These consequences have the potential to contravene data protection principles of Purpose Specification, Use Limitation, Data Quality, Individual Participation and Trans-Border Data Flow. This paper endeavors to clarify the various types of DLTs, how they work, why they exhibit the depicted characteristics and the consequences. Using the universal privacy principles developed by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), this paper then describes how each of the consequence causes concerns for privacy protection and how attempts are being made to address them in the design and implementation of various applications of blockchain and DLT, and indicates where further research and best-practice developments lie.

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