Blockchains as a means to achieve GDPR objectives

AuthorMichèle Finck
Blockchain and the General Data Protection Regulation
11. Blockchains as a means to achieve GDPR objectives
Up until this stage, the debate has focused primarily on the points of tension between blockchain
technologies and the Regulation. These tensions have been explained in further detail above and
the subsequent section will formulate concrete policy recommendations that could be adopted in
this respect.
As blockchain technologies are better understood and the subject of increased study and
experimentation, some have, however, also stressed that the technology might be a suitable tool to
achieve at least some of the GDPR's underlying objectives. This section will first provide an overview
of blockchains as a data management tool, which may provide benefits for both personal and non-
personal data, before introducing related advantages from the perspective of the EU data
protection regime.
11.1. Blockchains as a tool of data governance
There is at present increased awareness that the European Union is lagging behind other
jurisdictions when it comes to the development of computational intelligence. This is oftentimes
traced back to a lack of fluidity in data markets. 555 Indeed, an ongoing policy debate in the EU has
underlined that many actors consider that there is insufficient access to the data needed to train
computational models. Blockchains have been presented as a potential solution capable of creating
data marketplaces for AI development.556
In its April 208 data package, the European Commission has stressed that so-called data
marketplacesin essence digital marketplaces where personal and non-personal data can be
traded as a commodity may be used to unlock the value of data for the Digital Sin gle Market, also
in view of rendering the EU more competitive when it comes to computational intelligence. The
Commission considers that data marketplaces 'will give organisations, in particular smaller ones
who have datasets to sell, additional routes to market as well as easier billing and subscription
According to the European Commission, data marketplaces coul d be powered through APIs, by data
marketplaces serving as intermediaries to create bilateral contracts against remuneration or data
exchanges designed as closed platforms.558 The Commission has as a matter of fact indicated that
blockchains could be the technology enabling such data-sharing models.559
Depending on their respective design, distributed ledgers can indeed offer considerable
advantages to gain more granularity over the management and distributi on of data. This is due to a
number of factors. For instance, blockchains can be designed to enable data-sharing without the
need for a central trusted intermediary, they offer transparency as to who has accessed data, and
blockchain-based smart contracts can moreover automate the sharing of data, hence also reducing
transaction costs.560 Beyond, blockchains' crypto-economic incentive structures might have the
potential to influence the current economics behind data-sharing. At this stage, a number of start-
555 It is worth noting, however, that future machine learning processes may need much less (non-synthetic) data to be
trained than is currently the case.
556 For an overview, see further Finck M (2019) Blockchain Regulation and Governance in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, Chapter Five.
557 European Commission ( 2017), ‘Commission Staff Working Document on the free flow of data and emerging issues of
the European Data Economy’ SWD, 2 final 13.
558 Ibid, 5.
559 Ibid, 5.
560 Finck M (2019) Blockchain Regulation and Governance in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 136.

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