The Commonwealth announced a new project today to develop a “Blockchain” app to combat cross-border crime. The app will create a secure messaging system to help law enforcement and prosecutors in different Commonwealth countries cooperate more effectively on criminal investigations.
“This new app has the potential to change the way we cooperate on criminal justice matters and will help reduce serious crime throughout the Commonwealth. It will be particularly useful for combatting cybercrime and other technology-enabled crimes that are borderless by nature,” said Steven Malby, Legal Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat and the project lead.
“In today’s world, electronic evidence is an increasingly vital component of almost any investigation – whether for online or offline crime. We have been looking at new ways we can support the CNCP by using emerging technology, and in doing so, we are finding better ways to help member countries to work together in the fight against crime.”
The mobile app will use Blockchain technology, a decentralised record of data that can be verified and shared on a network of computers, to provide a secure and fast communication platform for the exchange of information between jurisdictions. It will be made available to the Commonwealth Network of Contact Persons (CNCP) – Commonwealth justice officials who provide informal advice on criminal investigations and obtaining evidence abroad.
The app, a joint venture with the Digital Identity Security Company, works by allowing a contact in an African member country, for example, to communicate with a contact in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the Commonwealth regarding a request for assistance with a criminal investigation.
The identities of contacts will be validated and stored by the app on the Blockchain, removing the need for a central Commonwealth database. Users will know the identity of all contacts through the app, which will also validate new individuals and automatically distribute their details. The app will enhance understanding of the practical and legal potential of Blockchain technologies.
Blockchain technology also underpins virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. It is essentially a record of digital events shared among many different parties that can only be updated by agreement between participants using the system. This technology has been recognised only recently as having other uses and applications.
Helping member countries make better use of new technology to facilitate international cooperation in criminal justice matters is a Commonwealth priority. The Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative and Working Group on Virtual Currencies have provided expertise in this area.
The Commonwealth is announcing the project to develop the app at a virtual currency and Blockchain conference, Consensus 2016, in New York (2-4 May).