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Oskar Gstrein, Dimitry Kochenov: Blockchain and Citizenship: Uneasy Bedfellows

In their chapter in the recently published volume Blockchain and Public Law, Oskar Gstrein (Groningen University) and Dimitry Kochenov, lead researcher of our Rule of Law Workgroup doubt that blockchain is a panacea in the world of inequalities and injustices established and amplified by the concept of citizenship.

The book provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges raised by blockchain from the perspective of public law. It considers the ways in which traditional categories of public law such as sovereignty, citizenship and territory are shaped, as well as the impact of blockchain technology on fundamental rights and democratic values.

Gstrein and Kochenov write that “Distributed Ledger Technology can be an effective tool for resource distribution. As individuals and organizations explore innovations which allow to redefine the rules of access, possession and sharing these developments also become important for the future of self-determination. Demonstrated through credit scoring and ‘social credit systems’, the identity of an individual is intertwined with resource access, possession and transferability. A key pre-requisite for participation is formal legal status, which translates to citizenship. However, many proponents of Distributed Ledger Technology focus predominantly on technological features and capabilities, which might enable the implementation of concepts such as decentralized governance, ‘self-sovereign identity’ management, and trust-less transactions based on ‘zero-knowledge proof’. Nevertheless, such narrow consideration overlooks existing legal and political realities.”

The authors argue that “considering the lessons learned from citizenship, it becomes questionable whether Blockchain as player in the area of identity management will ultimately increase human dignity, or further manifest traditional patterns of discrimination and inequality.”

Learn more about the book here.

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