Can blockchain curb corruption?
In a globalized world, the clash of cultures is becoming daily bread. The aggressive marketing practices in some countries capitalize on the regulated naivety of consumers in other lands. Communities with a strong sense of unity and security are pulled apart by communities that train their members to phish passwords and steal data: corruption. The efforts of some regulatory entities to curb the corruption and ferocity of the dog-eat-dog world stand powerless before the digital invasion of dogs more ferocious than ever.
A case in hand of corruption: a Swiss investor was involved in a joint venture gone underwater in a developing country. Other investors were members of the ruling class in that country. Upset about their losses, they decided to retaliate against all members of the joint investment.
Because of their family relations to the federal police in their nation, they were able to alter public data and attain an Interpol warrant for the arrest of this Swiss national as he was traveling with his family on vacation. Interpol would not recede the warrant until “certain obligations are fulfilled,” which meant that he make a money transfer to the discontented family to appease their anger. Corruption is a great injustice, manipulating the judicial system for personal gains.
Many efforts have been made to curb corruption on an international level, but cases like these still happen in our day. Unfortunately, it’s not just developing countries altering important data. Entities in the first world are doing it too. Volkswagen has cheated on emissions tests. Uber showed fake information about available drivers to the IRS. Airbnb was caught purging more than 1,000 listings in violation of New York state law, just before it opened its data to the public as part of its commitment “to build an open and transparent community.”
Data is under attack. But by basing public records on a blockchain, we can make a significant cut in the industry of corruption.
Blockchain is a ledger that keeps time-stamped records of every transaction, making them permanent. Recording a transaction on a public blockchain is the digital equivalent of writing something in stone. More important, it’s publicly available for anyone to see and verify.
The first public blockchain was conceptualized 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.
Signatures and time-stamps can’t prove on their own that 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 consequences for entities that manipulate their data and practice corruption. 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.
The public blockchain would fundamentally change the way we govern and do business, and it would effectively thwart manipulation and corruption at the hands of greedy individuals and entities.