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Government as a Blockchain User - and Regulator

Historically, blockchain-related regulatory attention has focused on cryptocurrencies, with regulators helping to shape the legal status of cryptocurrencies as they evolve. For example, a number of US federal court decisions have concluded that virtual currencies that are not otherwise deemed to be securities under the jurisdiction of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are commodities under the jurisdiction of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

While this has added clarity to jurisdiction, regulations themselves are expected to take some time to emerge with regulators focusing on receiving input from the market and policing individual investor protection cases.

More recently, regulatory concerns about blockchain have gained traction outside of digital assets. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) places strict limitations on how personal data is stored and saved within the European Union. Some see the GDPR leading to an unavoidable clash with the intrinsic immutability of how data is stored on blockchain platforms.

Similarly, in the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act limits how personal health information is handled, which may run afoul of blockchain-based solutions within the life sciences context.

Area of regulatory concern (50 percent), So it seems apparent that these and other privacy-based regulations could need to align with the evolving technology.

Moreover, though technically not a governmental entity, the International Organization for Standardization is creating a global framework for blockchain focusing on key areas, such as architecture, taxonomy, and ontology. In the United States, at least one state has passed regulations on the legal status of blockchain companies as limited liability companies while still others have passed laws on the enforceability of blockchain-based transactions.

Additional regulatory developments are anticipated in other blockchain applications, such as supply chain tracking, voting records, and general information reporting.

At the same time, governments do more than merely regulate blockchain technology. They often advocate for and incubate new blockchain applications. Over the past several years, It has been observed that government blockchain participation that extends beyond education and tentative experimentation—specifically, moves toward tactical, bold plays that drive innovation.

Representative public use cases include: digital currency/payments (Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia); land rights (United States, Brazil, Sweden); voting in elections (United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea); shareholder proxies (United Arab Emirates); identity management (Switzerland, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore); health care (United States, Estonia); and Defense/Security (United States).

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