Airbrushed from History? public registers, private registers, and the Birmingham Six (or Hillsborough, or Jimmy Saville)

or, why it’s important that registers involving personal data are both immutable and privacy respecting, which requires great care from the architects of the first system.

Bearing in mind, I’m looking at this with a day job of medical privacy, where the objective is to make every use of your medical record consensual, safe and transparent (to you). (also, this is my personal blog, not work’s)

The last post on blockchains was about whether you can change the past relatively simply, requiring disproportionate work on the part of others to see you’ve done it. Blockchains, mathematically say no by design; merkle chains don’t necessarily say anything – it’s how you use them that counts.

After a very long twitter conversation running for 2 evenings, likely to become 3, some key questions:

  • What must you publish about a private register such that people can have confidence in its integrity regarding rewriting of the past?
  • What will the transparency consequences be of changing history?
  • What content should be public? what content should be private?

For CourtChain, the official register of the courts, what should be recorded about the Birmingham Six case, such that all laws have been followed at all stages of the case, as history played out.

What are the data structures you build, to follow all those laws, and ensure that the Birmingham Six original judgement can’t be airbrushed out of the official history? Including, and especially, while protecting the six innocent men originally convicted due to corruption of the very system that would do the airbrushing.


There’ll be a part 3.

Nov 2015
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