An interesting discussion on the use of blockchain for academic libraries on the LITA listserv
in response to a request from the Library Association in Pakistan for an hour long session on “block chain and its applications for Academic Libraries”.
While Nathan Schwartz, MSIS Systems & Reference Librarian find blockchain only related to cryptocurrencies, Jason Griffey offers a MOOC focused on Blockchain for the Information Professions: https://ischoolblogs.sjsu.edu/blockchains/
According to Jason, “Blockchain, as a data storage technology, can be separated from the idea of cryptocurrencies and expressions of value and coin.”
At democracy’s heart lies a set of paradoxes: a delicate interplay of identity and anonymity, secrecy and transparency. To be sure you are eligible to vote and that you do so only once, the authorities need to know who you are. But when it comes time for you to mark a ballot, the government must guarantee your privacy and anonymity. After the fact, it also needs to provide some means for a third party to audit the election, while also preventing you from obtaining definitive proof of your choice, which could lead to vote selling or coercion.
Building a system that accomplishes all this at once — and does so securely — is challenging enough in the physical world. It’s even harder online, as the recent revelation that Russian intelligence operatives compromised voting systems in multiple states makes clear.
In the decade since the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto published an infamous white paper outlining the idea behind bitcoin, a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” based on a mathematical “consensus mechanism,” more than 1,500 new cryptocurrencies have come into being.
definition: Nathan Heller in the New Yorker, in which he compares the blockchain to a scarf knit with a single ball of yarn. “It’s impossible to remove part of the fabric, or to substitute a swatch, without leaving some trace,” Heller wrote. Typically, blockchains are created by a set of stakeholders working to achieve consensus at every step, so it might be even more apt to picture a knitting collective creating that single scarf together, moving forward only when a majority agrees that a given knot is acceptable.
Unlike bitcoin, a public blockchain powered by thousands of miners around the world, most voting systems, including Votem’s, employ what’s known as a “permissioned ledger,” in which a handful of approved groups (political parties, election observers, government entities) would be allowed to validate the transactions.
there’s the issue of targeted denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, in which a hacker directs so much traffic at a server that it’s overwhelmed and ceases to function.
Although a distributed ledger itself would likely withstand such an attack, the rest of the system — from voters’ personal devices to the many servers a vote would pass through on its way to the blockchain — would remain vulnerable.
there’s the so-called penetration attack, like the University of Michigan incursion, in which an adversary gains control of a server and deliberately alters the outcome of an election.
While it’s true that information recorded on a blockchain cannot be changed, a determined hacker might well find another way to disrupt the process. Bitcoin itself has never been hacked, for instance, but numerous bitcoin “wallets” have been, resulting in billions of dollars in losses. In early June 2018, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange was penetrated, causing the value of bitcoin to tumble and resulting in a loss of $42 billion in market value. So although recording the vote tally on a blockchain introduces a new obstacle to penetration attacks, it still leaves holes elsewhere in the system — like putting a new lock on your front door but leaving your basement windows open.
A blockchain is only as valuable as the data stored on it. And whereas traditional paper ballots preserve an indelible record of the actual intent of each voter, digital votes “don’t produce an original hard-copy record of any kind,”
In the end, democracy always depends on a certain leap of faith, and faith can never be reduced to a mathematical formula. The Economist Intelligence Unit regularly ranks the world’s most democratic counties. In 2017, the United States came in 21st place, after Uruguay and Malta. Meanwhile, it’s now widely believed that John F. Kennedy owed his 1960 win to election tampering in Chicago. The Supreme Court decision granting the presidency to George W. Bush rather than calling a do-over — despite Al Gore’s popular-vote win — still seems iffy. Significant doubts remain about the 2016 presidential race.
While little doubt remains that Russia favored Trump in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s primary target appears to have been our trust in the system itself. So if the blockchain’s trendy allure can bolster trust in American democracy, maybe that’s a net positive for our national security. If someone manages to hack the system, hopefully they’ll do so quietly. Apologies to George Orwell, but sometimes ignorance really is strength.
The main thing distinguishing a blockchain from a normal database is that there are specific rules about how to put data into the database. That is, it cannot conflict with some other data that’s already in the database (consistent), it’s append-only (immutable), and the data itself is locked to an owner (ownable), it’s replicable and available. Finally, everyone agrees on what the state of the things in the database are (canonical) without a central party (decentralized).
It is this last point that really is the holy grail of blockchain. Decentralization is very attractive because it implies there is no single point of failure.
The Cost of Blockchains
Development is stricter and slower
Incentive structures are difficult to design
Maintenance is very costly
Users are sovereign
All upgrades are voluntary
Scaling is really hard
Centralization is a lot easier
Like it or not, the word “blockchain” has taken on a life of its own. Very few people actually understand what it is, but want to appear hip so use these words as a way to sound more intelligent. Just like “cloud” means someone else’s computer and “AI” means a tweaked algorithm, “blockchain” in this context means a slow, expensive database.“blockchain” is really just a way to get rid of the heavy apparatus of government regulation. This is overselling what blockchain can do. Blockchain doesn’t magically take away human conflict.
So what is blockchain good for?
Most industries require new features or upgrades and the freedom to change and expand as necessary. Given that blockchains are hard to upgrade, hard to change and hard to scale, most industries don’t have much use for a blockchain. a lot of companies looking to use the blockchain are not really wanting a blockchain at all, but rather IT upgrades to their particular industry. This is all well and good, but using the word “blockchain” to get there is dishonest and overselling its capability.
As Norwegian Refugee Council research found, 70 percent of Syrian refugees lack basic identification and documents showing ownership of property.
The global passport
Host nations certainly has a share in the damage, as they face problems concerning the accessibility of vital information about the newcomers — dealing with the undocumented refugee, the immigration service can’t gain the information about his/her health status, family ties or criminal record, or verify any other vital data that helps them make a decision. Needless to say, this may lead to the designation of refugee status being exploited by economic migrants, fugitives or even the war criminals that caused the mass displacement to begin with.
Another important issue is data security. Refugees’ personal identities are carefully re-established with the support of clever biometric systems set up by the U.N. Agency for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR registers millions of refugees and maintains those records in a database. But the evidence suggests that centralized systems like this could be prone to attacks. As a report on UNCHR’s site notes, Aadhaar — India’s massive biometric database and the largest national database of people in the world — has suffered serious breaches, and last year, allegations were made that access was for sale on the internet for as little as $8
Finland, a country with a population of 5.5 million, cannot boast huge numbers of refugees. For 2018, it set a quota of 750 people, mainly flying from Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. That’s way less than neighboring Sweden, which promised to take in 3,400. Nevertheless, the country sets a global example of the use of effective technology in immigration policy: It’s using blockchain to help the newcomers get on their feet faster.
The system, developed by the Helsinki-based startup MONI, maintains a full analogue of a bank account for every one of its participants.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018, the billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros revealed that his structures already use a blockchain in immigration policies
In 2017, Accenture and Microsoft Corp. teamed up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a U.N.-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents.
a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with blockchain platform IOTA to explore how the technology could increase efficiency.
Blockchain: Recommendations for the Information Profession
Monday, September 24, 2018 12:00 pm
Central Daylight Time (Chicago, GMT-05:00)
Blockchain technology is being discussed widely, but without clear directions for library applications. The Blockchain National Forum, funded by IMLS and held at San Jose State University’s iSchool in Summer 2018, brought together notable experts in the information professions, business, government, and urban planning to discuss the issues and develop recommendations on the future uses of blockchain technology within the information professions. In this free webinar, Drs. Sandy Hirsh and Sue Alman, co-PIs of the project, will present the recommendations made throughout the year in the Blockchain blog, Library 2.0 Conference,Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession, and the National Forum.
Q/S TO ASK: WHAT KINDS OF DATA AND RECORDS MUST BE STORED AND PRESERVES exactly the way they were created (provenance records, transcripts). what kinds of info are at risk to be altered and compromised by changing circumstances (personally identifiable data)
515 rule: BC can be hacked if attacked by a group of miners controlling more than 50% of the network
Standards Issues: BC systems- open ledger technology for managing metadata. baseline standards will impact future options. can BC make management of metadata worth. Is it worth, or more cautious.
Potential Use cases: archives and special collections where provenance and authenticity are essential for authoritative tracking. digital preservation to track distributed digital assets. BC-based currencies for international financial transactions (to avoid exchange rates ILL and publishing) . potential to improve ownership and first sale record management. credentialing: personal & academic documents (MIT already has transcripts and diplomas of students in BC – personal data management and credentialing electronically).
public libraries: house docs of temporarily displaced or immigrants. but power usage and storage usage became problems.
U.S. retail giant Walmart has applied to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to patent a blockchain system for deliveries, according to an official patent document released August 30.
Walmart has applied for a number of blockchain-related patents in the U.S. in the past year. According to Investopedia, blockchain technology enhancement is mainly being used by the retailed in order to “help Walmart keep pace with its rivals,” such as Amazon.
Recently, Walmart applied for a patent on systems and methods for managing smart appliances via blockchain. The tech would allow users to customize levels of access and control for appliances such as portable computing devices.
In mid-July, the retail giant patented the technology for a blockchain-powered delivery management system that can keep delivered items safe until their purchasers are able to sign for and collect them.
Based on the blockchain technology, Hyperledger offers distributed ledger frameworks to a variety of industry leaders in the fields of banking, finance, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing, and technology.
4. IBM Bluemix Blockchain:
Developed using the base of Hyperledger, IBM Bluemix offers transparency in transactions and security in information for enterprises. At present, IBM Bluemix runs on the IBM cloud.
Multichain is one of the best Blockchain platforms that enables the creation and execution of private blockchains. This multi-asset exchange is becoming popular for solving real problems in finance, infrastructure, and e-commerce.
Developed by Coinprism, Open-chain is a Blockchain infrastructure that’s used for the perseverance and management of digital assets. Open-chain is an enterprise-ready platform for digital assets. Its approach is different than the standard Bitcoin approach to implementing Blockchain.
With the above-mentioned blockchain platforms, you can get unprecedented services for the security of digital transactions and assets. The blockchain technology provides independent and secure work structure and is a reliable solution that can be utilized to streamline an organization’s processes and transfer of assets without getting into any extensive documentation or periodical controls.
Blockchain will have the biggest value in higher education in areas where trust is essential to the value chain in institutional operations, such as evaluation of student transcripts, processing of applications and maintenance of articulation agreements, said Oral Roberts University CIO Michael Mathews, at The Blockchain in Education Conference hosted by the institution in May, reports Campus Technology.
From an infrastructure standpoint, Mathews said institutions have to establish a secure digital identity by investing in software that allows the credential recipient and granter to have a seamless and trusted connection, allowing for students to have a diploma that is stored safely within their digital wallet. This could mean working with a third-party application developer or developing the capability in-house.
But before fully investing in blockchain, higher education leaders must take these steps, said Mathews:
Spend a significant amount of time researching how the technology is impacting the industry and educate staff about it;
test the technology to see if it follows validation and security procedures; and
collaborate with other institutions to share best tips and practices.
1. Using a blockchain for automatic recognition and transfer of credits
The decline in first-time, first-year student enrollments is having a real financial impact on a number of institutions across the United States and focusing on transfer students (a pool of prospects twice as large) has become an important strategy for many. But credit articulation presents a real challenge for institutions bringing in students from community colleges. While setting standardized articulation requirements across the nation presents a high hurdle, blockchain-supported initiatives may hold great promise for university and city education systems looking to streamline educational mobility in their communities.
2. Blockchains for tracking intellectual property and rewarding use and re-use of that property
If researchers were able to publish openly and accurately assess the use of their resources, the access-prohibitive costs of academic book and journal publications could be circumvented, whether for research- or teaching-oriented outputs. Accurately tracking the sharing of knowledge without restrictions has transformative potential for open-education models.
3. Using verified sovereign identities for student identification within educational organizations
The data footprint of higher education institutions is enormous. With FERPA regulations as well as local and international requirements for the storage and distribution of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), maintaining this data in various institutional silos magnifies the risk associated with a data breach. Using sovereign identities to limit the proliferation of personal data promotes better data hygiene and data lifecycle management and could realize significant efficiency gains at the institutional level.
4. Using a blockchain as a lifelong learning passport
Educational institutions and private businesses partner with online course delivery giants to extend the reach of their educational services and priorities. Traditional educational routes are increasingly less normal and in this expanding world of providers, the need for verifiable credentials from a number of sources is growing. Producing a form of digitally “verifiable CVs” would limit credential fraud, and significantly reduce organizational workload in credential verification.
5. Using blockchains to permanently secure certificates
The open source solution Blockcerts already enables signed certificates to be posted to a blockchain and supports the verification of those certificates by third parties.
When an institution issues official transcripts, obtaining copies can be expensive and burdensome for graduates. But student-owned digital transcripts put the power of secure verification in the hands of learners, eliminating the need for lengthy and costly transcripts to further their professional or educational pursuits. An early mover, Central New Mexico Community College, debuted digital diplomas on the blockchain in December of 2017.
6. Using blockchains to verify multi-step accreditation
As different accreditors recognize different forms of credentials and a growing diversity of educational providers issue credentials, checking the ‘pedigree’ of a qualification can be laborious. Turning a certification verification process from a multi-stage research effort into a single-click process will automate many thousands of labor hours for organizations and institutions