The UK Government and law enforcement have been urged to look at the ways in which blockchain might help carry out criminal investigations, as well as the challenges the distributed ledger technology could present to its adoption.
In a blog post, the Police Foundation’s director Rick Muir has outlined three major potential benefits of the technology for the police and the public sector.
The first potential benefit is that it could give citizens much greater control of their personal data, allowing more personalised services.
Muir said in policing, crime reports could be made on a distributed ledger, with victims being updated automatically every time there was a development in the case, instead of police officers or prosecutors having to remember to phone the victim.
The second benefit could be interoperability, where blockchain could solve some of the problems the police faces around the interoperability of systems and sharing of information between several forces and other parts of the criminal-justice system.
Muir said: “Blockchain may help by allowing multiple users access to the same data with varying levels of permission.”
Muir said blockchain technology could allow automatic updates and design in rules to avoid error.
He said: “In 2010, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that during the prosecution of a standard domestic burglary there were 70 ‘rubbing points’ where the progress of a case was dependent upon one justice agency securing information from another.
“In addition, as part of this process there were at least seven occasions where data needed to be transferred between agencies.”
Muir added: “This level of complexity presents multiple moments for mistakes to be made and for duplication to occur. Blockchain technology could enable automatic updates and design in rules to prevent error.”
The Police Foundation’s director noted that the police should not breathlessly embrace blockchain as the solution to all our problems.
One such challenge is a level of encryption, which means that the identities of criminals remain hidden. Another is that a more decentralised internet built on distributed-ledger technologies like blockchain would make it harder to monitor and remove content such as indecent images of children or content promoting terrorism from the internet.
Muir concluded: “The government, the police, the public and the tech sector should rapidly discuss the implications.”