How We Might See Blockchain Used To Improve Public Safety


Blockchain is beginning its push into the public’s consciousness, but the average person probably doesn’t know how many uses for it there really are.

There are still so many areas where we’re exploring its potential to help, but I want to focus on public safety today. It’s an issue with a lot of moving pieces to think about, but also one where we have a lot of room for improvement. I’m going to tell you about some of the areas where I think blockchain can really make a difference. And one of those areas is gun control.

I know I just lost some people.

But bear with me here, because this is a complex topic that deserves a careful examination. I know this is a hot button issue, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about it.

So let’s start here and work our way forward.

Helping Prevent Gun Violence

Even as the debate rages on, and many Americans talk past each other, most of us do actually agree that there should be common sense regulations in place for guns. The problem lies in enacting and enforcing those regulations. As soon as we begin to talk about them, a range of questions pop up. Do we need more regulations? Can we just do a better job enforcing what’s on the books now? Is this a mental health issue that needs more attention?

I won’t pretend that blockchain has all the answers here. At the end of the day, it’s just a technology. It’s up to us to create regulations that keep us safe without infringing on our rights and our privacy. But blockchain can help.

Blockchain is already being used in supply chains to help track the movement of products like pharmaceuticals. It could potentially work in a similar way with guns. Tracking gun purchases and their movement across state lines, and acting as a decentralized ledger that isn’t publicly revealed, are all within the realm of possibility for blockchain.

In the case of the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the shooter was never supposed to have had a gun in the first place. He was flagged for domestic violence. But it was never entered into the system. This is a scenario where blockchain could help. Another reachable goal might be a private, but verifiable, ledger for those who shouldn’t have guns. A domestic violence conviction or diagnosis of mental illness could trigger a response that automatically places them on a “no-buy” list, all via blockchain.

Combatting Crime Through Data

Blockchain doesn’t have to be used just for tracking guns. I can’t say how people will react to the suggestions I’ve just made. But if they seem too invasive to you, there are other ways that blockchain can work to fight for public safety.

I was in Boston for a conference not too long ago, and I had an interesting conversation about this topic with another conference-goer. They were looking to create a blockchain-based solution that could track crime patterns in the city, and even better, transfer that data between parties. The current state of tracking and data sharing in most cities isn’t great. Cities have districts and neighborhoods that can’t or won’t share data, and that makes us all less safe.

This is the type of area where blockchain can really shine — in preventative use cases. You can take crime statistics and patterns, and you can aggregate that data so police have a data source for their patrols. The more data we have, the more that machine learning can begin to analyze that data and provide evidence-based solutions.

For those concerned about privacy and infringements on our rights, this may be a more appealing path to take.

Government Adoption

The question isn’t if government agencies are going to begin using blockchain for public safety uses, it’s when. I’ve spoken with some of these agencies about uses for blockchain, and I can tell you, they’re looking into it. But the implementation isn’t going to happen overnight.

And that may be a good thing. Because they’re actually looking at this from a standpoint of protecting privacy and the public interest. Personally, I really value my privacy, and I do worry about the uses that blockchain could be put to, but I think we are moving in the right direction now. I think it’s wise to take time to figure out exactly how implementation is going to work in conjunction with our civil liberties and our right to privacy.

Like I said, blockchain is just a technology. An important one, for sure, but at the end of the day it’s still a tool that we choose how to use. We need to start thinking about these issues now, because mass adoption is coming, and we need to have a route mapped out as we move forward.