The EU Blockchain Observatory has organized a workshop on the research priorities around blockchain technologies. Balazs was part of the academic panel. Please read the report, and watch the panel below:
One of the new research threads of the Lab is technology mediated trust. It concerns the following simple questions:
- how do we use technologies to produce trust and mitigate distrust in interpersonal and institutional contexts?
- can we trust these trust technologies?
These questions are laid out in more details in a paper currently under review at New Media and Society. The draft version is available here: Mediated Trust – A Theoretical Framework to Address the Trustworthiness of Technological Trust Mediators
There is also a talk version. See and download the slides below.
As a research scientist, you’ll be working on the social and institutional aspects of trust in and by technological systems. Multiple technologies emerged to produce trust (such as global reputation systems, (self-sovereign) identity systems), or minimize the need for trust (DLTs). Trust, as produced by technical systems has many possible sources: strong cryptography, censorship resistance through decentralization, good governance, or legal legibility, certainty and compliance. Some of these trust sources, like technology governance and regulation, can complement each other. Others, such as compliance and decentralization, seem to be in contradiction. As a social scientist, you will be working with legal scholars on answering the following two questions at the intersection of trust and technology:
- How do (decentralized) technologies produce trust or minimize the need for trust?
- What makes these systems trustworthy?
You will answer these questions by studying various aspects of trust and trustworthiness in technological contexts.
In particular you will:
- conduct empirical research among technology developers on the trustworthiness of technology:
- design and implement surveys, and conduct qualitative analysis on how technology developers see the trustworthiness of technology they build and operate, and how they implement and balance different sources of trust in technological systems (system design, governance, legal compliance, etc.);
- conduct empirical research among technology users on the topic of trust:
- design and implement surveys among users of blockchain based systems on the issue of trust and trustworthiness;
- conduct a qualitative analysis of the discourses around trust and DLTs;
- work on the problem of institutional embeddedness of decentralized technical systems:
- conduct empirical research on how existing societal stakeholders (such as businesses, the media, various professional groups, regulators, policymakers) see the trustworthiness of decentralized technologies, and their ability to produce trust;
We are proud to announce that we have won a large Dutch Science Council (NWO) grant to study the legal conditions of trust in decentralized technology systems. Together with the Blockchain Lab of TU Delft, and the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and the material support of the Dutch Ministry of Interior, and the Dutch Pension Administration, we will study how law can contribute to various form of decentralized, DLT based trust technologies, such as self-sovereign identities, or decentralized marketplaces.
See the full press release below.
Researchers at the IViR Sovereignty4Europe project are exploring the principles of an ‘Internet-of-Trust’. The aim is to design a system that securely stores varied transactions in a blockchain. IViR is conducting the project in collaboration with researchers from TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam and other partners. The 3.3-million euro project was funded through contributions from NWO, RvIG, Holland High Tech, Topsector HTSM, and Delft Blockchain Lab TU Delft.
Project leader Johan Pouwelse (TU Delft): ‘Internet behemoths like Amazon, eBay, Google essentially sell trust: we use Amazon and eBay as trusted intermediaries, and visit Google to find relevant websites. These giant companies then store our personal data on their own individual servers. We aim to replace these US-dominated central servers with a general, non-profit and open source alternative that can serve as the basis for a reliable blockchain economy. A scalable and reliable way of maintaining trust and reputation in an open environment, with no need for a central authority.’
The project should culminate in the design of an internet-based system capable of reliably storing a wide range of transactions in a blockchain, in line with European legislation. This will make individuals uniquely identifiable and allow researchers to ascertain levels of trust from previous transactions. The Internet-of-Trust infrastructure is currently being evaluated in an online community made up of 50,000 internet users. The legal aspects of this blockchain economy are being evaluated on the basis of national and European privacy laws.
The project is being headed by Balázs Bodó, the founder of the ERC-funded Blockchain and Society Policy Research Lab.Bodó: ‘The legal team is assessing how new, technological forms of trust building can work with rather than against the legal system’s current trust building instruments such as regulation, law enforcement and the court system.’
Collaboration with National Office for Identity Data (RvIG)
In addition to the three universities, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations’ National Office for Identity Data (RvIG) is also actively participating in the project. RvIG aims to contribute to an open, universally accessible ecosystem that meets both social (privacy and security) and economic needs. Amongst other benefits, the new system should help strengthen trust in digital transactions, reduce costs and promote the development of alternative forms of service provision such as an electronic ID card.
The project should also yield insights at a European administrative level. The European Commission (EC) has asserted that blockchain technology allows for new distributed and interaction models that are based on direct peer-to-peer information exchange and do not require any central platforms or intermediaries, and is currently assessing the feasibility of an EU Blockchain Infrastructure (EuroChain). Sovereignty4Europe seamlessly reflects these European ambitions.
After a year or so being part of writing the Dutch National Blockchain Research Agenda, the Lab is now part of a winning consortium which puts parts of that research agenda in practice.
Together with TU Delft’s Blockchain Lab, Erasmus University, the Dutch Ministry of Interior, and others, we will be working on trustworthy blockchain applications in the next 4 years, due to a generous, 1.5M Eur NWO grant, and a similar amount of private contribution.
Alexandra and Valeria participated at Gikii 2019 organised at Queen Mary University of London on 9-10 September 2019.
Valeria focused on the issues raised by Libra’s promise to create a decentralized and permissionless financial ecosystem open to anyone. Alexandra addressed the dystopic future of having a decentralized and portable digital identity standard provided by Facebook.
The presentation can be found online here
Blockchain&Society Policy Research Lab Lunchtime talk
The Lab organised another iteration of the Lunchtime talks at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) on 6 September 2019.
Andres Guadamuz presented on the topic of his recently published paper entitled “All watched over by machines of loving grace: A critical look at smart contracts”.
Smart contracts are coded parameters written into an immutable distributed ledger called a blockchain. There has been increasing legal interest in the application of these self-executing programs to conduct transactions. Most of the scholarly and practical analysis so far has been taken the claims of this technology being akin to a contract at face value, with legal analysis of contract formation, performance, and enforcement at the forefront of the debate. This article discusses that while smart contracts may pose some interesting legal questions, most of these are irrelevant, and smart contracts should be understood almost strictly from a technical perspective, and that any legal response is entirely dependent on the technical capabilities of the smart contract. The article proposes that smart contracts are not contracts for all practical purposes.
Dr Andres Guadamuz is a Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Sussex and the Editor in Chief of the Journal of World Intellectual Property. His main research areas are on digital copyright, open licensing, software protection, cryptocurrencies, blockchains, and complexity. Andres has published two books, the most recent one of which is “Networks, Complexity and Internet Regulation”, and he regularly blogs at Technollama.co.uk. He has acted as an international consultant for the World Intellectual Property Organization, and since 2005, he has been involved with Creative Commons Scotland (while lecturer at University of Edinburgh and Associate Director of the SCRIPT Centre), Costa Rica and now the UK.
The presentation slides are available online.
Facebook’s Calibra cryptocurrency is on its way.
It’s mission is to “enable a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people”.
At TILTing 2019 the Lab presented a study on the legal instruments that are, as of today, applicable to blockchain-based digital assets under European law, and the relative enforcement challenges. The broader question to be tackled is whether and how regulators deal with such challenges, and what are the interests at stake. http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2019/05/tilting-perspectives-2019-report-2.html
Catalina Goanta of Maastricht University organized an excellent workshop on Courts and Internet Governance, focusing on the intersection of court system and decentralized technologies.