Dutch National Police Set Sights on Blockchain-Based Cloud Services

Bitcoin Magazine
Dutch National Police Set Sights on Blockchain-Based Cloud Services

The Dutch National Police have taken an interest in Blockchain-based cloud services. A presentation given over the summer reveals a new focus on Storj and Filecoin.

Members of the Dutch National Police and UNIJURIS gave a presentation in July titled “Technical and Legal Challenges of Criminal Law Enforcement in the Digital Age .” This is an update of a presentation given in 2013 titled “The merits & challenges of distributed least authority data storage .”

The presentations explain how cloud storage and file hosting “Data is cut up in a hundred pieces. Pieces are spread over a hundred servers, in dozens of countries, over a multitude of hosters.”

Both presentations explain how Mega (Mega Limited) replaced the controversial Megaupload cloud storage service. Megaupload was seized and shut down by the United States Department of Justice in January 2012 over copyright infringement claims.

Extradition hearings are currently underway for Megaupload founder Kim DotCom in New Zealand. When the original Megaupload site was seized, federal prosecutors stated, “This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.” However, Kim DotCom, founder of Megaupload and Mega, recently distanced himself from Mega, stating over the summer that he would not trust Mega with user data and that he intends to create a third version of the site.

How would you like a new Internet that can’t be controlled, censored or destroyed by Governments or Corporations? I’m working on it #MegaNet

— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) February 16, 2015

As the Dutch presentation explains, next-generation technologies such as Mega make it more difficult for law enforcement to seize: “Never mind reading it. Data cannot even be located without the key.”

The presentation from this year was updated to include both Filecoin and Storj (pronounced “storage.”).Filecoin, according to its website, is a “data storage network and electronic currency based on Bitcoin. Users can “Earn Filecoin by renting disk space.” Filecoin was named by both Business Insider and Coindesk as Bitcoin projects to watch in 2015.

Storj, according to its website, is “based on blockchain technology and peer-to-peer protocols to provide the most secure, private, and encrypted cloud storage.” It will allow users to rent out extra hard-drive space and bandwidth using MetaDisk . It is built on top of Bitcoin with the Storjcoin X “SJCX” Counterparty token. According to CoinMarketCap , SJCX has a market capitalization of approximately $735,000 at time of publication.

Bitcoin Magazine spoke with Storj founder Shawn Wilkinson, who said that the presentation did a good job on half the picture:

“Traditionally, law enforcement could knock on the door of a third-party provider for access to information. As this is abused and data becomes more and more abstract and distributed (for economic and reliability) this will become almost impossible. This should lead to a decrease in cybercrimes as well. If governments can’t get access to it, neither can attackers.”

Further, he noted that it missed some of the benefits to law enforcement:

“[It] Misses the possible use cases with this type of system in law enforcement. For example, handling of digital evidence in a public and verifiable way. “[This was] Not possible before.”

For example, in a popular dashcam video of a phone theft on Youtube, the detective assigned to the case was eventually provided with a signed (with an indelible ink pen) DVD by the person who captured the video. This seems like an antiquated way to prove authorship.

The presentation offered the following “solutions”:

Regarding Jurisdiction: “Legal duty (based on a warrant, of course) for third parties (companies) to hand over data locally in countries they offer their services in.”

Regarding Enforcement: “Seizure and acquisition moves back to the [end user or] client (not the hoster [or company].) [This creates a] New legal paradigm regarding the ‘location’ of data.”

Wilkinson said that the “P ossible solutions portion won’t work at all as these solutions become more and more distributed.” While he disagrees with solutions, he thought the presentation was very forward-thinking and they are “asking the right questions.”

The distributed platform such as that which Storj will provide is a paradigm shift away from traditional centralized services. The past year saw very high-profile hacks of SONY , the Office of Personnel Management and even Ashley Madison . The breadth and scale of these kinds of data breaches are made possible though centrally stored data. While decentralized solutions may make law enforcement’s job more difficult, there must be thoughtful regulation because it might be a service such as Storj’s that will prevent a “cyber Pearl Harbor ” from happening.

Indeed, the authors note that:

“When these technologies, and others like them, converge in the … not so distance future, cloud based security will take a large step forward towards the multi granular least authority approach required for true in-depth cloud security….When looking at the public-order and security aspects of law enforcement, these developments can only be seen as a blessing.”

They also note: “When looking at the same developments from the prosecution and forensics viewpoint however, we see major technological and legal obstacles and challenges arising …”

The Dutch Police have had their hands full lately with a Supermarket Bomber making ransom demands in bitcoin. Earlier this year, The National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ police and Kaspersky Lab announced that they would help victims recover from CoinVault ransomware. Earlier this month they arrested two young adults believed to be involved in the CoinVault campaign. They have been playing whack-a-mole with several Silk Road copycats . The Dutch National Police Agency also created a fork on GitHub of John Ratcliff’s blockchain: A minimal parser for the bitcoin blockchain .

UNIJURIS, also located in the Netherlands, is a research group on unilateralism and the protection of global interests and has a section on its website called “Extraterritorial jurisdiction on the Internet .” This includes a research paper “The end of territory. The re-emergence of community as a principle of jurisdictional order.”

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WEF Survey Predicts Bitcoin ‘Tipping Point’ Happening By 2027

A survey by the World Economic Forum says the tipping point for bitcoin and blockchain adoption will happen by the year 2025.

The majority of 800 executives and experts surveyed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) put the 6-year-old currency bitcoin, as well as the underlying blockchain technology, 10 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) running through the two technologies by 2025. The WEF was a bit more cautious with its own prediction and put 2027 as year they would reach the “tipping point.”

The WEF described the use of apps such as Smartcontracts.com, a website that allows people to issue programmable contracts that pay out sums of bitcoin when certain factors (set by the creator of the contract) are reached and verified, without the involvement of any middleman, as a “Shift In Action” in society. “These contracts are secured in the blockchain as “self-executing contractual states,” which eliminate the risk of relying on others to follow through on their commitments.”

“[By 2025] 58% of respondents expected this tipping point to have occurred. Bitcoin and digital currencies are based on the idea of a distributed trust mechanism called the ‘blockchain,’ a way of keeping track of trusted transactions in a distributed fashion. Currently, the total worth of bitcoin in the blockchain is around $20 billion, or about 0.025% of global GDP of around $80 trillion,” read the report.

Positive impacts of bitcoin and blockchain technology reaching a critical tipping point listed by the WEF included: more direct financial transactions with less and less middleman; brand new assets that can be traded; better property records, and more financial inclusion in emerging markets; blockchain-based contacts and legal services used as unbreakable escrow or programmatically designed smart contracts; and increased transparency.

Technological Shifts that Will Change the Future

World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society gathered to identify 21 changes in society caused by software that would shape the future. They then survey business and technological leaders about when the “tipping point” for these technologies would happen and what the possible positive and negative effects of them would be, and published the results in a report titled Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact .

The committee featured 18 thought leaders and executives in the technology industry, which included several familiar, or involved, in the bitcoin/blockchain industry. Ron Cao, managing director of Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture firm that invested in American bitcoin exchange CirclePay and Chinese exchange BTCC (formly BTC China); Primavera De Filippi, research fellow at Berkman Center for Internet & Society, France, and early explorer of bitcoin’s and blockchain’s effect on modern law, among others.

The report also included the “sharing economy,” 3D printing, smart cities, wearable devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), among the list of future-shaping technologies.

“Now comes the second machine age. Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power – the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments – what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power,” wrote Council Vice-Chair and Director at MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Erik Brynjolfsson in the report.

Blockchain use by governments was another trend that was included in the list. Possible uses by governments included recording land registries, tax collecting schemes, and other improvements in governmental processes. The tipping point decided by the WEF was the first time that tax is collected through a blockchain application and expected it to happen by 2023.

“[By 2025] 73% of respondents expected this tipping point to have occurred. The blockchain creates both opportunities and challenges for countries. On the one hand, it is unregulated and not overseen by any central bank, meaning less control over monetary policy. On the other hand, it creates the ability for new taxing mechanisms to be built into the blockchain itself (e.g. a small transaction tax).”

The WEF remained neutral on whether this would be a net positive or negative, citing corruption, real-time taxation, and unclear role for government in the process, including a state’s central bank, were reasons it could “cut both ways.”

An example given by the report as already underway was a 2016 mayoral candidate of London who has suggested implementing blockchain technology to upgrade the city’s’ ledger for land, as well as for its finances and budget. (Similar experiments are going on in Honduras and the Isle of Man.) “Because these records are kept permanently, there is a strong possibility (without the blockchain) for them to be altered or faulted.”

“The Internet is driving a shift towards networks and platform-based social and economic models. Assets can be shared, creating not just new efficiencies but also whole new business models and opportunities for social self-organization. The blockchain, an emerging technology, replaces the need for third-party institutions to provide trust for financial, contract and voting activities,” concluded the report.


Photo World Economic Forum

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