IGF 2019 WS #136 Can we make blockchain foster privacy?

Organizer 1: Jörn Erbguth, University of Geneva
Organizer 2: Katrin Kirchert, Anwaltskanzlei Kirchert
Organizer 3: Jean-Christophe FINIDORI, Blockstack evangelist
Organizer 4: Silvan Jongerius, TechGDPR DPC GmbH
Organizer 5: Christian Wirth, Privacy by Blockchain Design
Organizer 6: Anja Grafenauer, Privacy by Blockchain Design
Organizer 7: Petko Karamotchev, INDUSTRIA.tech
Organizer 8: Alexander Chuburkov, QIWI BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGIES LLC
Organizer 9: Alpha 汪东艳, Tencent

Speaker 1: Anja Grafenauer, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Alpha 汪东艳, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Alexander Chuburkov, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Policy Question(s): 

How can we make sure that the use of blockchain technology is not a threat to privacy but fosters privacy?
Can the use of blockchains be compliant with strict privacy regulation like the European GDPR?
How can we define best practices for privacy protecting blockchains?

Relevance to Theme: The massive collection and exploitation of personal data poses challenges around privacy, freedom of expression and the exercise of many other human rights. Most data protection regulations approach this problem by regulating central and powerful controllers. However central control of huge data collections are difficult to control and to abuse.
Blockchain technology uses a different approach. Decentralization of power reduces the power of single actors dramatically. Privacy enhancing technologies like zero knowledge proofs, encryption and hashing can reduce the risk of data-abuse without the need to trust single actors. However, immutability and public acces to blockchains pose important but not insurmountable

Relevance to Internet Governance: Standard organizations like ITU (FG DLT), ISO (TC 307), JPEG (Media Blockchain) and DIN (SPEC 4997) are all working to develop best-practices and standards for blockchain applications. In these discussions, privacy is a central issue. Data protection laws like the European Union’s GDPR are not always technology neutral. Do we need to adapt them in order to avoid them blocking better privacy protection through peer-to-peer technology like blockchain?


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Description: The workshop will start with a brief introduction of blockchain, privacy and their difficult relationship to one another: The distributed and privacy-enhancing character of blockchain as well as the risk imposed by immutability and lack of control. It will then give an overview of current issues with privacy regulation like the European Union’s GDPR like the definition of personal data, the right to be forgotten and the obligations of controllers and processor. Finally, the current state of standards being developed by ITU, ISO, JPEG and DIN will be discussed. Germany’s data protection officer Ulrich Kelber, participants in standards committees, stakeholders from the industries, academics, consultants, technical experts and lawyers have been invited.

Expected Outcomes: Participants shall understand the double role of blockchain as a threat to privacy and a tool to foster privacy. They will learn about the current state of the discussion concerning data protection regulation and standards development. Participants will discuss applications and priorities and will deliver important input to standard bodies and regulators.

Onsite Moderator: 

Jörn Erbguth, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Christian Wirth, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Katrin Kirchert, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

After the introduction to the topic, there will be an intensive discussion among participants as well as members of the audience.

Online Participation: 

This will be done through the remote moderator. Remote participants are invited to ask questions or voice opinions.

Proposed Additional Tools: Prior to the event a website will be available and questions, ideas and comments will already have been collected.


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