Thursday, August 3, 2017

Blockchain for Criminal Charge Tracking?

https://goo.gl/qv8unC


A recent question to the NCSC Community bulletin board regarding Blockchain technology led to the following thoughts regarding its potential use in one of the most difficult problems we have faced in the justice community since the 1970’s, criminal charge tracking.  We discuss below.





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Starting in the 1970’s there was a dream that criminal violation charges would be created by law enforcement and then, the result returned from the courts.  Then the policy makers would better understand the results of their laws and enforcement.  Most of us understand that there is this critical step in between the police and courts called the prosecution.  They review and refines the charges before filing with the court.  So, the court may never see the original charges and therefore, cannot link the result to the original law enforcement record.  This results in many problems in understanding and refining the justice process because the data connections just aren’t there.

I have been at meetings since the early 1980’s on this topic.  And in the early 2000’s we even helped to create a pair of early GJXDM XML transaction standards to share the information.  But here is one of the “big problems”; law enforcement agencies are loath to connect with one another.  We can blame the Constitution and the separation of powers, but this is also true in many countries.

Technology marches on and we now have the potential for Blockchain technology to possibly create a solution.  Remember that Blockchain is also known as a “Distributed Ledger”.   Each organization, law enforcement, prosecution, courts, probation, corrections all can have and run their own “Ledger”.  They don’t even need to ask permission to create and post one.  Each organization has control over their own “Ledger” and therefore they don’t have to go to a coordinating body for approval.

If one thinks of a criminal charge as a transaction comparable to a purchase of an item.  The blockchain could sign and thus identify each of the charges and post them to the ledger.  Of course, now the charges can be shared and tracked by any organization with a ledger.  And when charges are added or dropped along the way by law enforcement, prosecution or courts, they too can be posted and shared in the ledger.

I can’t say that this won’t take some planning and work.  But the technology companies are coming with tools to make this easier to attain.  For example, an interesting paper posted by Microsoft on the Azure Blockchain Project explains how they are extending functionality with what they call “Blockchain Fabric”.  They explain:
Since a distributed ledger network’s value is multiplied by the number of different participants, it becomes obvious that consortiums will dominate the landscape. This brings up the need for interoperability. And while we are at it…management and operations, privacy, identity, key management and an enhanced execution model rounds out the list of initial enterprise consortium requirements. There will be more, but we have to start somewhere. 
Blockchain Fabric is essentially an “Enterprise Consortium Distributed Ledger Fabric” that would look and feel like traditional middleware, except it would span the globe functioning largely as APIs or Platform as a Service. 
This Fabric would provide the following core services: 
Identity and Certificate Services - functionality found in both Azure Active Directory and Key Vault to provide PaaS services for authentication, authorization, key issuance, storage, access and lifecycle management. Providing Cryptlet registration and policy as well as establishing identity for people, organizations, key transactions and contracts and things, this service can be a platform for others to build vertical services like a KYC (“know your customer”) service, asset registration and federation, etc. 
Encryption Services – partial payload encryption, or field level encryption for blockchain transactions with various encryption schemes (homomorphic, threshold, etc.) to make secret those values that should only be seen by the owner and counter parties + regulators 
Cryptlet Services - attested hosting for cryptlets to be securely invoked by CryptoDelegates in SmartContracts or UTXO adapters. Services like location, trust validation, secure isolated containers will provide the runtime for cryptlets written in any language to be (deterministically) executed. Specifications for CryptoDelegate, Adapters and Cryptlets will be released to the community via open source so they can be implemented in other distributed ledgers. 
Blockchain Gateway Services - Interledger-like services to allow for SmartContracts and tokenized objects to be passed between different ledger systems. This service can provide transactional integrity to inter ledger transactions like transfer of financial instruments in a supply chain that spans several blockchains. 
Data Services - key data services like distributed file systems (IPFS, Storj, etc) of off-chain data referenced by public keys. Auditing, Advanced Analytics, Machine Learning and Dashboarding services for SmartContracts, Blockchains, Consortia and Regulators. 
Management and Operations - tools for deployment, management and operations of enterprise consortia distributed ledgers will bring the enterprise maturity lacking in the market today.” 
This excellent paper provides a lot to think about and provides a context and set of possible tools to solve our criminal charge tracking problem.
I look forward to hearing about your ideas and project.  And please write to me if you wish to post an article about how you are using Blockchain/Distributed Ledger?


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