Managing Privacy and Digital Identities with Blockchain Technology

Steven J. Ehrlich and Rouven Heck

Privacy is one of our oldest and most fundamental human rights, going back centuries. In fact, the legal protection of privacy rights began in England in 1361 with the Justices of the Peace Act, which called for the arrest of “peeping Toms” and “eavesdroppers”. Over 500 years later, Justices Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis (1890) defined privacy as “the right to be left alone” in their seminal article, “The Right to Privacy”.

Despite these longstanding traditions, the concept of privacy is constantly being redefined, often in response to the advent of a new communications technology, such as the telephone, printing press or Internet messaging. In today’s world, highlighted by the emergence of major technology companies and the global reaction to the 2013 Edward Snowden revelations concerning government surveillance, citizens fret about their inability to manage their identities online and dictate who can access, collect and utilise their personal data. One report (Rainie, 2016) has illustrated how large the chasm is between how individuals feel about data privacy issues in relation to corporate actions. For example, the study found that although 86% of people in the US have

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