Records on a Blockchain
One of the fundamental issues for records management has been ensuring the authenticity and integrity of records. Blockchain presents records managers a new way to ensure electronic systems oﬀer integrity.
Authenticity and Integrity Opportunities
As blockchain technology is used to create federal records, it could impact how GA (Government Agencies) approaches scheduling. At this time, the use is not wide-spread and appraisal and scheduling would follow traditional models evaluating the content and context of the subject of the records to determine the value of the records and the retention periods for the records.
What may change is the disposition instructions for transfer of any permanent blockchain records or deletion of any temporary records. For example, would the disposition instruction require GA to be made a node or part of the blockchain in order to have access to the records for eventual transfer? Would the entire blockchain have to be transferred by the federal or state agency on the blockchain to GA or vis versa? Is it possible to transfer parts of blockchain?
Transferring blockchain records to the GA is a completely theoretical discussion, at this point. No blockchain records have been scheduled as permanent records, yet. Some of the questions to consider are:
Are there special resources needed to archivally store blockchain records, such as node/network administration skills?
Since the records within the blocks may consist of a variety of record types accumulated from multiple transactions, would GA be able to access the formats contained in the blocks?
How would GA manage, preserve, or provide access to blockchains containing cryptographically inaccessible parts?
If multiple agencies are on the blockchain network, each with their own node, would a single creating agency or owner need to be responsible for transferring the records or transactional data?
What if GA become a node itself? Would the legal transfer of the blockchain records happen when GA is included on the blockchain?
Current records management models rely on a centralized collection of electronic records captured and maintained within the structures and systems of an organization.
Blockchain shifts the responsibility and trust for maintaining electronic records from the structures and systems of the organization to a distributed network. This represents a change in the role of centralized records management systems and tools; a shift to the blockchain itself performing the validity and trust that records management systems performed. This shift from a centralized model of trust to a network-based model is becoming more common across various technology sectors. Whether it be technology (the Internet) or the way we communicate (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter), networks are becoming a primary organizing principle.
This shift may impact how records are organized and arranged and maintained over time, which in turn will impact how records managers collect records, apply intellectual and access controls, and execute disposition rules.
Archival Science and Disciplinary Integration
Video, audio, and photo manipulation present a unique challenge to the National Archives and its mission to collect, maintain, and provide access to the authentic records of the Federal government. For example, there are video editing applications for facial manipulation of YouTube videos, as well as highly accurate voice editing software, which allows users to more easily create “fake videos” without detection.
In order to solve the challenge of archival veracity, GA will use hashes, each of the bulk download items included a hash in the metadata so external entities could validate the digital material had not been altered. Blockchain technology could be part of future archival veracity solutions.
Blockchain and Success Criteria
As agencies adopt blockchain technologies, GA will need to address the principles in these guidance products by: