The World Economic Forum (WEF) on May 22 launched 16 user rights for building blockchain applications that respect participant rights, safeguard data and protect users, and to serve as the foundational values for a decentralised future.
"For blockchain technology to scale in its next phase, global alignment between the public and private sectors is needed. This ‘Blockchain Bill of Rights’ establishes a global baseline and was developed for over a year by the WEF Global Blockchain Council. It was workshopped globally with technologists and civil society. Early adopters include public and private sector companies, international organisations, nongovernmental organisations and civil society," the economic body said in a statement.
Covid-19 has accelerated the development and use of emerging technology across industries. To help individuals and companies build trust and preserve the fundamental values of blockchain technology, the 16 'Presidio Principles: Foundational Values for a Decentralised Future' were developed, with the aim to protect users and preserve the values of the technology so that all can benefit.
“The blockchain ecosystem needed a baseline for designing applications that preserve the rights of users. During our council meeting, we realised we could help curb many of the mistakes and missteps seen so far if we were able to provide developers, governments and executives with a ‘Bill of Rights’ style document,” said WEF blockchain and data policy head Sheila Warren.
The rights are grouped into four broad pillars: transparency and accessibility – the right to information about the system; privacy and security – the right to data protection; agency and interoperability – the right for individuals to own and manage their data; and accountability and governance – the right for system users to understand available recourse.
Applications built on top of blockchain-based systems should preserve the rights of participant in accordance with the Presidio Principles. This includes that a participant should have access to information that would enable them to understand how a service is operated, including potential risks of the service, availability of source code, and the rules and standards upon which it is based, and the potential risks and benefits of a service’s use of blockchain technology.
Users must have information to understand system performance expectations and where the responsibility for service delivery lies, and the rights and obligations of different participants in the system.
Participants should be able to create, manage and independently store cryptographic keys and manage consent of data stored in third-party systems. Additionally, they should be able to port data between interoperable systems or parts of a system, revoke consent for future data collection, and have access to information sufficient to facilitate system interoperability.
"A participant should be able to assess if their data is at risk through appropriate disclosure procedures, which may include, but are not limited to, an examination of audit results, certifications, or source code, and have their data protected in accordance with internationally recognised technical security standards."
Further, participants should be able to limit data collection to that which is necessary and data use to the purpose for which it was provided and verify – through third-party or self-created tools – that operations have been completed and confirmed in accordance with the system’s rules.
Participants must be able to access information needed to understand the system’s governance and rules and pursue effective recourse mechanisms. Similarly, they must be able to opt out of using applications that do not treat data in accordance with internationally recognised governance and data protection standards, as well as rectify demonstrably false, inaccurate, or incomplete data when necessary.
"Blockchain, as the Internet of Value, holds enormous potential to build a more sustainable, prosperous, healthy and just world. But people and organisations will determine how and to what goals this innovation is applied. The Blockchain Research Institute was pleased to contribute to the Presidio Principles and we commit to advocate them globally to help ensure the promise of this technology is fulfilled,” said Blockchain Research Institute co-founder and executive chairperson Don Tapscott.
“Technology holds great potential for increasing trust and transparency – but if not deployed correctly, it also holds great risk to the world’s most vulnerable. We want to use these Principles in our work across the globe to ensure that the user and technology’s potential for good is at the heart of each design choice,” said Transparency International chair Delia Ferreira Rubio.
“Our Global Blockchain Council membership reflects varying ideological perspectives on what blockchain technology is appropriate for and where it is going, ranging from bitcoin maximalists to enterprise service providers,” Warren highlighted.
“This highly opinionated group came together and agreed that the blockchain community needed the foundational principles we are presenting today. Agreement from across council members, despite their divergent perspectives, indicates the critical need for a values-based document like this in order to ensure that the technology remains true to its roots as the application layer starts to scale.”
The forum is partnering with ecosystem leaders from Hyperledger and Ethereum, as well as the consulting and investor communities to issue specific "Guidance Documents" around how the principles can be implemented on a more tactical level. These will further help developers, governments, executives, corporate boards, international organisations and others implement the principles and take action now.
Additionally, Global Blockchain Council members will be partnering with individual organisations, associations and membership-based entities and investors for virtual sessions on how companies can meaningfully implement the Principles in their operations, she added.
“I accepted the nomination to co-chair the Global Blockchain Council because I believe that this technology is truly disruptive; democratising access to money and ownership of data in ways that we never could before. As a founder and entrepreneur, I know that the Presidio Principles will encourage wider accessibility to emerging technologies and therefore wider potential for adopters,” said AZA Finance CEO Elizabeth Rossiello in the WEF release.
“How developers choose to build their solutions affects not only the users of today, but the trajectory of the technology. We are exploring ways for our community of developers to not just read and sign onto the principles – but look for ways to meaningfully integrate them into their processes,” said Linux Foundation Hyperledger executive director Brian Behlendorf.
"As open sourced and decentralised systems keep moving forward, we have seen how challenging it can be to build guidelines that apply to different and evolving blockchain projects, and that help teams work to solve problems together. I believe that the Principles will provide a high-level framework that can really help these critical conversations continue throughout the lifespan of the technology,” said Ethereum Foundation executive director Aya Miyaguchi.