The Bitcoin Masterclasses #7

The Bitcoin Masterclasses #7 with Dr. Craig Wright: Government services and data—what do we actually need?

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Governments provide many services and gather a lot of information to provide these services. At least, that’s how it works in theory. Some of this information should be public in the name of transparency and to assist others in deciding what taxpayer money should go where, and other information must be kept private. Those devising blockchain solutions for government need to work with governments closely to research how they function and match their needs with features.

Dr. Wright begins session six of The Bitcoin Masterclasses #7, Day 2, with an anecdote about a U.K. citizen who had 15,000 companies registered in his name, at his home address, by foreign scammers (presumably by randomly selecting someone in the U.K.). The government began chasing the victim for unpaid registration fees without ever attempting to verify whether the registrations were correct or even intended. Dr. Wright adds that he had personal experience with items delivered to his house (a piano) that were flagged as suspicious, but pairs of sneakers delivered to a third-party address weren’t.

“This is our problem right now,” he says. People need to have control over the keys that could be used to perform actions in their name, and these keys should notify you when they’re used.

Tax reporting, licensing, all this—once we’ve migrated everything (to the blockchain), it’ll make life far easier. In this industry, we’re trying to make things simple for the general population, not have esoteric cypherpunk debates about the nature of government itself. And we need to convince everyone this will make life and business 10x, 100x better, not just slightly better.

Checking data and what data to check

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply verify or cross-check records using a hash of data. There are unconventional names and circumstances, spelling errors and variations, and random extra data (as mentioned in previous sessions).

We also need to use challenges whenever we send information, or third parties will be able to match data that are public. You can even run matches on data hashes if you know how it’s hashed. We need to ensure sensitive data and changes to this data can be verified by parties to a transaction, but not by others.

Dr. Wright runs through a few examples of data we’d need to anonymize, where it isn’t completely necessary, database fields to consider, and government services that could work better depending on the collection and comparison of data that may or may not be private. Remember that in blockchain, there’s plenty of information we can authenticate without revealing the information itself.

We also need to think about time: after several years have passed, it’s less important that it’s tied to individuals and can be anonymized for statistical purposes. You might want to research tax revenues over time, but no one cares if you personally paid all your taxes owed for one year, 50 years after you’ve died.

There’s a lot of minutiae to be discussed and decided upon before we can even start moving government records onto the blockchain. Much of it can sound tedious, at least on the surface. No one system’s going to fit the needs of all governments in every country. The upside is this: there are plenty of niches to explore and specialize in, which means plenty of opportunities for potentially valuable ideas.

All previous seasons of The Bitcoin Masterclass recordings are available for viewing on the CoinGeek YouTube channel.

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