Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau authors major new international report on the impact of blockchain

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
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Communication, Faculty of Law

Florian Martin-Bariteau Blockchain
Today there are more than 18,000 cryptocurrencies in existence. The technology that powers these currencies – originated by cryptographers and network engineers – is known as blockchain, and despite its origin as a tool for the financial systems of the digital age, blockchain is quickly working its way into countless other aspects of our lives. As is often the case with new technologies, law has difficulty keeping up with innovations.

Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau is the co-author, alongside Professor Florence G’Sell of the Université de Lorraine, of a new report from the Council of Europe that takes stock of the risks and the potential benefits of blockchain technologies. Entitled “The Impact of Blockchains for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law”, the report showcases how blockchains can be used in support of democratic tools and in the recognition of and respect for human rights, while also flagging potential social justice issues and presenting some of the important limitations of the technology, as well as use cases that may impede fundamental rights.

Blockchain-based technologies link lists of records (called blocks) across multiple computers so that records cannot be retroactively altered. Beyond their use in cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies have now become ubiquitous in the world of “smart contracts”, which can be used to manage anything from digital identities, to medical records, land titles, intellectual property rights, digital identity, voting systems, and so on. With such a rapid spread of uses for smart contracts and blockchains, much of the legal framework regulating this field is still murky. This new report discusses some of the legal issues that may arise from the use of blockchains, with emphasis on privacy rights, the legal status of automated contracts and decentralized autonomous organizations, and the jurisdictional conflicts that arise from the global nature of these technologies.

The Council of Europe promotes advancing democratic functions and ensuring accountability and transparency, from digital identity and information self-determination, to supporting refugees and vulnerable populations, responsible supply chain, immutable land titles and voting systems, as well as efficient dispute resolution mechanisms. This report aims to provide initial recommendations to the Council for additional research and prospective programming regarding blockchain technologies.

Currently a Fellow of the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau is the University Research Chair in Technology and Society and the Director of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society at the University of Ottawa, where he is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section. He is also the Director of the AI + Society Initiative, and the founder of the Blockchain Legal Lab. He is an internationally recognized thought leader on technology policy engaged in shaping frameworks that safeguard rights and liberties in the digital context to build a more secure and inclusive society.

Florence G’Sell is a Full Professor of private law at the Université de Lorraine and holds the Research Chair in Digital, Governance and Sovereignty at Sciences Po Paris. Her research focuses on issues of private law from a comparative perspective. Her most recent publications deal with the various issues raised by the digital transition.

Read the full report, “The Impact of Blockchains for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law”.