045. Governance, Self-Sovereign Identity and Ethics in Blockchain Tech w/ Elizabeth Renieris

Elizabeth Renieris earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, she attended law school at Vanderbilt University, and then did her master’s in law at the London School of Economics. Although many high school graduates are opting out of college or traditional post-secondary education, we talk about the benefits of getting this kind of formal education. One of the ideas that she believes is important around getting a university education is the ability to “cross pollinate with people who are in different disciplines studying different things, perhaps in different graduate schools.”

Elizabeth specializes in the area of identity and data privacy in the crypto and blockchain space. The conversation around data privacy has been focussed on the viewpoints of the consumer or big business, but Elizabeth talks to me about data privacy from the perspective of a lawyer.

“We’re very quick to blame tech, big tech, big data for a lot of the breaches of trust that we’ve seen from the large online intermediaries and their data practices, but I think we have to be honest, as a legal profession around what we’ve enabled. I think most lawyers who’ve worked on Terms of Service and privacy policies are very cognizant of the fact that nobody is reading these and they’re often imposing terms that are unclear to the end user and that the user really has no choice and all the other reasons that these frameworks are broken. And, I don’t think that’s sustainable. I think that lawyers really have to be honest with themselves around what they’re promoting because, we all took contract law. We know about the requirements for a valid contract. And, I would say, in the vast majority of our online interactions, we’re not meeting those requirements.”

Where does the responsibility for changing the status quo lie? What about the  lawyers drafting those contracts that we agree to with the click of a button? If they know that no one’s reading these agreements, does it make sense to keep drafting these same agreements and disseminating them in the same way?

Another area of Elizabeth’s expertise is around solving the identity problem. And when we look at putting identity on a blockchain, one of the most exciting ideas around this is the ability not give up any data that isn’t necessary for a given transaction, so we can retain our privacy. Elizabeth talks about working on this solution.

And there’s something called the BLT approach, which looks at a problem or project from all sides – Business, Legal and Technical, but Elizabeth wants to add another layer to this BLT. In keeping with the sandwich analogy, she wants to add an egg on top. The egg would represent here, the idea of Ethics. Elizabeth’s BLTE approach, factoring in the Ethics of a problem gives a broader perspective that, especially after all of the recent data breaches and of course the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, I think most of us are ready for.

Elizabeth Renieris

https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethrenieris/

BLTE Approach article

https://medium.com/@hackylawyER/the-missing-ingredient-designing-a-tech-future-wed-actually-want-to-live-in-7dab73f8e527