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Big Brother or Santa’s little helper? How blockchain can transform justice

Cryptocurrencies are unfortunately often associated with ‘dark’ money, crime and legal twilight zones. However, cryptos’ underlying technology – blockchain – can actually be used to increase transparency and help fight crime. This will require walking a fine line.

Orwell’s ghost

There are a lot of legitimate concerns about the measure of control companies and governments can exert over people with the information they gather. Companies and anti-democratic regimes could use blockchain to validate and compile sensitive information on opponents.

Then again, the same goes for computers, police forces and pictures. In the wrong hands, any kind of technology or social structure can be used for immoral purposes. As with any technology, democratic supervision remains vital. That way, blockchain used for justice purposes can serve its purpose. And its potential is big.

Unified databases

Let’s suppose future police, justice and government databases will be based on blockchain’s validation structure. This only allows data to be added to a blockchain if it is validated by all preceding data. That way, government services can get a more complete, broader picture of a suspect or criminal’s ‘career’ without having to consult several different databases or request paper files from an archive.

This also makes sure no data would be tampered with, damaged or dismissed, as has sometimes happened in spectacular but disappointing criminal trials where information was meddled with. Reliable data is the basis of any well-functioning criminal justice system and reduces the risk of mistrial, or criminal cases getting dismissed on basis of procedural errors.

Reducing white collar crime

In Belgium, there’s the ‘Car Pass’ – you cannot sell a car unless it has gotten a Car Pass that affirms the car’s state and sellability. To move contracts, statements and information to blockchain technology would reinforce trust between sellers and buyers and remove a large part of the subjective judgement. Why not create a blockchain-based ‘Home Pass’, for instance?

Not accredited in the blockchain? No previous sales figures available in the blockchain? No sell. This would reduce low-level white collar crime such as fraudulent sales. For instance, some building companies will purposely go bankrupt after accepting an advance from unsuspecting home-owners. If they have to prove their bona fide through the blockchain, this will become much more difficult.

A fairer justice and insurance system

Another way in which a unified database based on blockchain technology could serve the people, is to prevent ‘double punishment’. A traffic accident is a good example: if the driver is at fault, they not only have to pay all the damages, but also incur a crippling fine from the police. With a blockchain-based record, courts can immediately check what amount the driver at fault has already paid and base their sentence on that figure.

Insurance companies and insured people would benefit from this, too. Right now, insurance fees are already based on averages and statistics. But it would be fairer if a person would be charged based on their personal history rather than statistical averages. When people enter their first insurance contract right now, this isn’t possible. But blockchain technology could make that a reality. This lowers the risk for insurers, and improves insurance fees for people who live responsibly.

Let cops be cops

I once spent four hours being interviewed by the police on a trivial matter. Over two-thirds of the time I was there, two police offers were mostly busy clicking their way through red tape, requesting access to files or re-stating questions after they had forgotten the answer because they were too busy wrestling with their outdated system. I’m sure these men would have preferred being on the beat and I would have certainly preferred doing something productive.

Blockchain is no perfect panacea here – but it could form the basis of a much more efficient, automatically validated and safer system. Software could be developed to pull up a person’s file in an instant, with everything pre-filled out. This would greatly reduce redundant work for police forces and would allow them to do the job that benefits society most: to keep us safe.

Let’s talk!

In general, government digitalization is already moving into the direction of more data sharing and unification of databases. We carry fewer and fewer different papers and cards, and more and more people prefer dealing with government and justice systems online. Blockchain could give this process an extra boost – it’s reliable, safe and it disintermediates.

Perhaps, one day people will react with mild bemusement at my story from the police station, much like today’s people are astounded to learn that it was legal to smoke in hospitals well into the 1960s. We can help your services and organization move to this new reality. If you have questions or don’t quite know where to start, or if you wonder about your next steps into the future, don’t hesitate to drop us a line or call us. No strings attached. We’re happy to help.

Verified on

March 29th 2019, 08:22

Categorized: Government, Sector