Controlling your data: the competing visions of blockchains and GDPR.

October 5, 2018 – 12:00 pm @ Spui25

The Blockchain&Society Policy Research Lab organised a workshop entitled:

Controlling your data: the competing visions of blockchains and GDPR.

Half of the speakers and the audience were women, Yay!

The workshop brought together legal and technical experts to discuss the concept of decentralisation and how the goals and rules of data protection can be accommodated in the context of blockchain technologies.

The event was part of the Amsterdam Privacy Conference.

Eliza Mik: What is blocking blockchains? A common sense, legal evaluation

The Institute for Information Law (IViR) cordially invites you to the next

Blockchain&Society Policy Research Lab Lunchtime talk

Eliza Mik: What is blocking blockchains?
A common sense, legal evaluation

Despite dozens of pilot projects and an incessant buzz surrounding blockchain technologies, actual mainstream implementations are few – unless we limit the discussion to crypto-currencies and fundraising platforms. One of the reasons is a lack of general understanding of the technologies in question or, more specifically, of their actual practical capabilities. At a basic level, blockchains are nothing but databases – and to state that a database in itself will revolutionize commerce and reform society seems unfounded, if not outright ridiculous. The lack of understanding of certain technical characteristics of blockchains hinders their evolution and adaptation to commercial needs. The problem is particularly prominent in permissionless (aka public) blockchains, where technological misconceptions merge with a strong ideological bias: certain features, such as trustlessness and decentralization, are regarded as absolute values that require preservation – even if such preservation runs counter to the basic needs of the commercial market place.    Another reason might lie in the indiscriminate and uninformed use of certain terms, such as validation, smart contracts or transaction, without understanding their actual, technical meaning and implications. It is, after all, impossible to “transplant” legal or technical nomenclature from its original context into another and expect it to have the same meaning and/or effect. The problem is particularly prominent when it comes to smart contracts, which are often touted as the ultimate technological tool guaranteeing legal certainty. Such claims are, however, completely unfounded. On one hand then, the commercial use of blockchains is hindered by a lack of awareness of what they can or cannot do. On the other, the development of a solid theoretical approach is prevented by a lack of standardized terminology. In effect, when talking about blockchains – we often don’t know what we talk about.

Eliza Mik teaches contract law and the law of e-commerce at the Singapore Management University. In parallel with a line of research focused on distributed ledger technologies and smart contracts, she is involved in multiple projects relating to the legal implications of automation, the deployment of ‘intelligent agents’ in retail environments as well as the transactional imbalances created by the use of consumer-facing technologies, such as predictive analytics and AI. Before joining academia, she has worked in-house in a number of software companies, Internet start-ups and telecommunication providers in Australia, Poland, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Eliza advised on e-commerce, payment systems, software licensing and technology procurement.

Date and Location: 12.30, Friday, 28th of September, 2018, Room REC A7.23


Trust in decentralized data infrastructures – the second report in our Blockchain&Society Research Nodes series is out!

In May, 2018 we organized a high level expert meeting on the topic of Trust in decentralized data infrastructures. We  discussed the role of markets, the government, laws, and society in governing trust on blockchain tech. These are the highlights:

  • Contrary to the dominant discourse blockchain technologies are not trustless. In fact trust is a major, unresolved challenge related to the technology.
  • Practical applications that are able to prove the worth of decentralized datasets are yet to emerge
  • Extensive interdisciplinary education programs are necessary to facilitate the knowledge transfer among different societal domains, and to unlock the full potential of this technological innovation
  • Blockchain policies should ensure that the technology does not interfere with justice and democracy, and should actively balance economic interests with fundamental rights
  • The development of blockchain governance frameworks is probably the most important challenge in the short to mid-term.
  • There is a potential of, and a need for multidisciplinary collaborations inside UvA, and with other partners in the Amsterdam region of these topics.

Read the full report here.

The Lab will represent European science at the upcoming meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The European Research Council selected three cutting edge ERC funded projects to represent Europe at the upcoming AAAS meeting on  “Science transcending boundaries“. We are extremely proud to be one of these project in Washington DC next February, together with  Phil Howard‘s computational propaganda research, and  Aude Billard‘s  Human and Robot skill acquisition project.



Blockchain&Society Research Nodes #1: blockchain technologies and GDPR

We are proud to announce the Blockchain & Society Policy Research Lab’s research notes series: the Blockchain&Society Research Nodes!

The inaugural issue is about the intersection of EU data protection regulation and blockchain technologies, based on the “GDPR, data policy and compliance” workshop organized by the EU Blockchain Observatory in June 2018.

Download the report here.

Read file

Apply a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship to the Lab, with IViR as a host organisation!

We invite interested candidates to submit an initial research and collaboration idea that could be jointly developed into an application under the MSCA European individual fellowships call. We welcome expressions of interest of candidates from legal studies and other disciplines, who want to conduct inter- and multidisciplinary research informed by information law, e.g. social sciences, in particular economics, digital humanities, computer, network and data science, on topics such as:Personalization of online media and servicesAlgorithmic governanceBlockchain law, technology and policyPsychology of ownership in digital goodsInformation security and surveillance (international aspects, oversight and accountability)Artificial intelligence and information lawRoles, responsibilities and liability of internet intermediariesInternational trade and investment in information goods and servicesOnline platforms and competition lawTrade secrets and information lawAccess and ownership of data

Source: Applying for the call for Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions with IViR as a host organisation – IVIR

The Lab meets with key Dutch industry leaders in three high profile events

The Blockhain&Society Policy Research Lab introduced itself to business leaders and decision makers in no less than three high profile events last week: the Flying Money Conference, the Barlaeus dinner, and at the Advisory Board meeting of the Faculty of Economics and Business.

Balazs Bodo, Eduard Karel de Jong, Geert Lovink, Caroline Nevejan, Flying Money (C) INC, Inte Gloerich

First we participated at a panel of the Flying Money conference, co-organized by MoneyLab, and the City of Amsterdam.

Balazs was discussing the challenges of (blockchain based) governance of planetary scale resources with critical theorist Geert Lovink, Eduard de Jong, a sotware architect with a long history in e-payment systems, and Caroline Nevejan, the chief scientist of Amsterdam. Listen to the panel here (thanks Inte Gloerich!):

The day after, together with the Innovation Exchange Amsterdam, we hosted this years first Barlaeus dinner, the topic of which was “Trust in the data on blockchains“. The dinner, named after Caspar Barlaeus (1584 – 1648), the Dutch mathematician, historian, poet, humanist, theologian connects a selected group of leading industry/companies, local/national government, policymakers, research funding organisations with top UvA researchers to network, share insights, and lay the groundwork for future excellence. The event was opened by the Rector Magnificus of UvA, prof. dr. ir. K.I.J. Karen Maex, and Mirjam Leloux, Director IXA, the valorization arm of Uva-HvA. Balazs gave a keynote on the most pressing challenges, which then in turn were discussed around four tables, using four different languages: that of the market, of government, of the law, and of critical theory. The freshly joined Lab members: Valeria Ferrari, Alexandra Giannopoulou, and Joao Pedro Quintais were introduced, present, and involved.

Barlaeus Dinner, 24th of May, 2018, at the Allard Pierson Museum

Read the full report here.


And finally, on the 28th of May, Balazs was speaking at the Advisory Board meeting of the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Amsterdam. Speaking after Heleen Kersten, Lawyer-Partner at Stibbe, Han van Dissel, the Dean of the Faculty, and Marc Salomon, the Dean of the Amsterdam Business School to industry leaders in the Board, Balazs was offering a realistic and cautious outlook on the industry applicability of blockchain technologies.

The Dutch Blockchain Research Agenda

In the last few months Balazs was participating in the creation of the Dutch Blockchain Research Agenda for NWO, the Dutch Science Agency.

The Agenda spells out the research priorities, and topics where more interdisciplinary research is needed.  To quote the Agenda: “Given the complex fabric of technological and societal questions around blockchain, future research seems to require at least the awareness of this multi-disciplinarity, or even seek collaboration across the boundaries of disciplines. Blockchain research carries many challenges on the level of research design and methodology. As is the case with systems focused research, the proper demarcation of scope of future research projects and programmes is essential. This scope also sets the disciplinary mix that needs to be involved. At the same time, it should be ensured that the required disciplinary progress can happen, especially since different disciplines require research at different time scales.

Since blockchain technology is a moving target, in terms of research methodology one must also consider more exploratory, theory generating,
high risk and open-ended approaches, including tools such as mathematical modelling and analysis, business modelling, techno-economic analysis, functional and non-functional design and testing, action research, simulations and experiments in research labs and living labs, horizon scanning, etc. As this research agenda includes both fundamental and applied research, it requires active involvement from non-academic stakeholders from public bodies, industry, market sectors and the general public.

Another methodological challenge is the futureproofing of research. In such a volatile field, it is often difficult to distinguish issues relevant only in the short term, versus long term blockchain specific problems, versus fundamental research questions that cut across multiple digital technologies and have been and will be with us for decades.

There are several streams of investment that fuel research in the blockchain technology domain. Private investment through venture capital and
ICOs (crowdsourcing) as well as public investment by governments, universities, and research funding bodies should be aligned in a smart way.
In that context it seems inevitable to identify the fields that Dutch academia, research institutes and research departments of Dutch organisations are
best positioned to answer, either because they already excel in certain domains, or because they want to build skills and research capacity through
strategic investment.

The Agenda is now public And can be downloaded from here:

Read file