How Blockchain Could Impact Criminal Record Databases in Canada
by Eugene Ohotnikov, Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada
Over the past years, major hacks of user accounts in Canada have compelled institutions to examine new ways to make data more secure and efficient. Today, the government of Canada is actively exploring blockchain, known as one of the most reliable technologies for data protection.
But could blockchain actually be used to store various public data and personal information, such as biometrics, tax information and even criminal records? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Blockchain
Blockchain is a framework for managing data blocks that are generated, copied, and synchronized across so-called “nodes”. These nodes are computers, including laptops and servers, which form infrastructure by being connected to each other. Each node contains a full copy of the blockchain, that is, all of the data blocks generated and recorded in the distributed ledger.
All data in the blockchain are encrypted with a private key of the sender available only to the intended recipients. This makes cracking the blockchain code much more complicated, even for supercomputers, providing so much-needed security for public databases.
Blockchain is not only a secure digital ledger but also a framework where data blocks cannot be altered after they are generated. Since full nodes contain all data blocks recorded on the blockchain, any such data block cannot be altered without changing the entire blockchain. This limitation could make blockchain unusable for storing certain personal information, for example, criminal records, which could be suspended or even expunged.
Still, recent initiatives by blockchain innovators may help circumvent this constraint and enable blockchain to address many issues, including reducing wait time for obtaining reports, increasing safety of data and cutting processing costs, among others.
Limitations of Blockchain for Storing Criminal Records
The immutability of blockchain makes it a potential concern for storing personal information that could change over time. For example, when it comes to criminal record databases in Canada, the inability to change data blocks on the blockchain may make it impossible to remove such criminal records from public visibility, for example, after a Pardon (Record Suspension) is granted.
Several agencies already challenged this limitation by offering solutions that would allow altering data on the blockchain. Such solutions would be required not only in the public domain but also by financial institutions who need to adapt the blockchain technology to their needs if they want to use it on a large scale. Some early adopters of blockchain have already objected to this move, saying that creating the mechanism for altering data blocks would violate the very core of blockchain ideology. At the same time, squaring the technology with practical considerations is inevitable if someone considers applying it to a wider number of real-life applications, including storage of criminal record databases.
Benefits of Blockchain for Hosting Criminal Record Databases
Blockchain technology could be applied on a large scale to store public data and personal information. In regard to criminal record databases, blockchain offers a number of benefits, including:
- Reduced Wait Time to Access Criminal Record Data
After an inquiry into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) is made, the official RCMP processing time is 3 business days for those with no criminal records and up to 120 business days for those with criminal records. Storing criminal records on the blockchain would provide almost instant access to all authorized recipients.
- Improved Security
All data on the blockchain is encrypted and stored on multiple computers known as nodes, making it virtually impossible to compromise the data or get unauthorized access.
- Lower Cost
Blockchain technology cuts the middlemen and offers a considerable processing cost reduction. Moving data to the blockchain could cut both federal and local police processing fees many times over.
Blockchain technology promises numerous advantages for storing public data, including criminal record databases, providing unprecedented efficiency, cost-saving benefits, and improved security. However, the technology has yet to be adapted to the needs of the Canadian Pardon system, providing for the removal of criminal records from CPIC after a Pardon (Record Suspension) is granted.
About the Author
Eugene Ohotnikov is a Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada and legal copywriter on a broad array of subjects including family law, estate planning, immigration, taxation, real estate, conveyancing, startups, and more. Eugene holds a Master’s degree in law. During his career, Eugene has developed legal content for law firms and clients from the US, Canada, China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Contact Pardon Applications of Canada via 866-383-9744.