Members of the U.S. House of Representatives got a crash course on blockchain today, with subcommittees of the Science, Space and Technology Committee meeting to hear testimony on the tech.
During the “Beyond Bitcoin: Emerging Applications for Blockchain Technology” hearing, the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight asked a range of questions, primarily aimed at getting a sense of which use cases have attracted the most attention today – and could, in theory, wind up being used by the U.S. government itself.
Ultimately, the witnesses would recommend that Congress set up a legal framework which would encourage and, perhaps, even fund research into uses of the technology within the public sphere.
“I would encourage Congress to commission a blockchain advisory group,” Aaron Wright, an associate clinical professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and co-director of its Blockchain Project.
He later elaborated:
“So the idea with the blockchain commission would be to provide a degree of uniformity and a unified approach to the numerous regulatory decisions. Some issues raised by the witnesses today – there’s privacy issue, identity issues, consumer protection, commodities laws, and there’s competing interpretations that have been issued already by federal agencies, so the thought would be to standardize that.”
Applications, not regulations
The hearing pointedly sought to avoid a topic that has been a hot one, both in and outside of Washington, D.C.: regulation. While it was a subject that came up through witness testimony, chair Ralph Abraham (R-LA) said he wanted to focus on what he described as a potentially “transformative” technology.
To that end, the hearing called for examples of how the technology can be used, both in the private sector and by the federal government.
Representative Barbara Comstock (R.-VA) started listing use cases by noting that her personal information was likely stolen or compromised by a data breach at the Office of Personnel Management. As a result, she said she was “pleased” to hear about efforts to create more