Chronicle of a Clash Foretold: Blockchains and the GDPR's Right to Erasure

  • Polytechnic University of Turin
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GDPR abiding blockchain systems are feasible. Jurists, programmers, and other experts are increasingly working on this aim nowadays. Still, manifold blockchain networks functioning out there suggest a new generation of data protection issues brought about by this technology. Some of these issues will likely concern the right to erasure set up by Art. 17 of the EU data protection regulation ('GDPR'). These cases will soon be discussed before national authorities and courts, and will likely test the technical solutions explored in this paper, such as hashing-out methods, keys destruction, chameleon hash functions, and more. By taking into account matters of design and the complex architecture of blockchains, we shall distinguish between blockchains that have been thought about to expressly meet the requirements of the EU regulation, and blockchains that, for one reason or another, e.g. ante GDPR designed blockchains, trigger some sort of clash with the legal order, that is, (i) matters of principle on e.g. political decentralization; (ii) standards on security and data protection; (iii) a mix of them; and, (iv) social clash. It is still unclear how the interplay of legal regulation, technological constraints, social norms, and market interests, will end up in this context. Rulings and court orders will be instructive. It is a clash foretold, after all.

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... Therefore, under the GDPR, a data subject whose personal data have been stored on a blockchain has the right to obtain the erasure of her personal data. Putting aside several issues in determining the controller(s) and the processor(s), it seems that current blockchains appear inherently incompatible with the regulatory framework of the European Union [37]. ...
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... Für das Recht auf Löschung (Artikel 17 Absatz 1 DSGVO) können jedoch technische Lösungen gefunden werden. Da der Begriff "Löschen" in der DSGVO aber nicht definiert ist, ist der Begriff offen für eine rechtliche Auslegung [6,18]. Demnach käme statt der Entfernung eines Datensatzes auch eine Anonymisierung ebenjenes in Betracht. ...
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