With over ten years of experience in anti-money laundering (AML), Doug speaks with confidence on the contentious issue of AML, he is the outlier; with the perspective of a crypto-enthusiast but is grounded in his understanding of the finance industry.
In BlocAlt, Doug has brought together his professional history and his personal passions. Since 2013 and his work for Fidelity Investments with cryptographic assets, Doug has been involved in the blockchain space, his knowledge of the tech was then applied in identity management projects for Massachusetts Financial Services (MFS), it was through these experiences in addition to his and his family’s involvement in a non-governmental organization based in Guatemala City, “that the idea for BlocAlt came together.”
Doug founded BlocAlt in 2017, “I’m certainly not the first person to realize the benefits of blockchain technology to the developing world, but personally I think the blockchain will have a more revolutionary effect on emerging markets than the developed world,” he advises and consults with other non-profits that have footprints in the developing world, disseminating these benefits, “though it’s going to be a game changer here in the developed world as well,” he acknowledges.
Doug witnessed first-hand the hardships investors from the developing world go through when they attempted to financially join the developed one. While working for MFS, Doug had to vet Latin American investors through Luxembourg’s stringent anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and saw “customer-client relationships basically destroyed”. Under a blockchain regime, Doug explains it could be a “one and done” situation, as currently stipulated under many AML regulations, investors from jurisdictions considered to be "high risk" are required to update their information annually, “if you’re living in a rural part of Uruguay, for example, to get to certified authorities, notaries, et cetera, it can be a big deal due to the lacking infrastructure.”
For Doug, blockchain is a “tremendous game changer” for identity in emerging markets, and it is Estonia that “is leading the way in terms of digital identity”. As he has written previously in Reputation: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Doug holds an Estonian e-Residency, “I was actually granted an Estonia digital identity, it expands beyond the borders of the country itself, it’s amazing.” For him, Estonia is the new standard in self-sovereign identity, the e-Residency card does away with the photograph, “photos on ID are going to be a thing of the past moving forward, people change, you can change your appearance, it’s kind of a very weak testament and proof of identity, this is all biometric.” Once an ID card is received (only ever in person, with a fingerprint) there needn’t be an intermediary between an individual and his or her identity. According to Doug, Estonia plans to incorporate DNA swabs as forms of private keys in the future, “It’s fascinating stuff, and we’re still in the early days of it.”
From projects that seek to upload identity to the blockchain at the time of birth, such as use-cases in both Illinios in the U.S. and Bengal in India, Doug speaks on what he sees as an integral part of the makeup of who a person is, the medical history of a person, “medical records on the blockchain is huge.” Doug notes an MIT Media Lab project, MedRec, that utilizes Ethereum smart contracts to “prioritize patient agency, giving a transparent and accessible view of medical history.”
“It is truly a gamechanger on multiple levels,” Doug explains, “number one, this will be packed into your identity packet, if you want to call it that, that’s loaded on the blockchain that will be protected by a private key, driven by your DNA, and it will give you ownership of (your own) medical records.” It may seem that it should go without saying that an individual has ownership over their medical records, but in the U.S. it is in fact not the case, “your medical history is bought and sold to third parties that are conducting medical studies… you don’t really have any say whom they sell it to, you don’t get any financial reward for (the third party) having sold it. So it will give you ownership of that data, you will be the one to control it, you will be the one to benefit from any studies your medical history is supporting.”
A foundation is created with self-sovereign identity according to Doug, “ I see all these others joining over time with the baseline identity.” The reliance on fallible documents such as passports and social security numbers is no longer sustainable. Studying the flow of cryptocurrencies on the dark web, Doug points to “tremendous availability” of fake and stolen identifying documents on black markets as evidence to this.
”If you can capture that at the point of birth by a simple DNA swab of an infant just born at that hospital, that child will have caught up to the technology, and for the rest of that child’s life, they’ll never have to go through that pain, and because the protocols are secure, everything that is uploaded into the blockchain will be a single source of truth for that child’s life, and including, I think the most important part of making up who that person is, is the medical history of that person.”
Jumping tracks, we discussed the disappointing shortcomings of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the face of consistent breaches by Google and Facebook. While there have been encouraging precedents they are far too few in the face of a deluge of failures by the European regulation.
“I think they’re feeling the pressure, especially that Facebook is under right now, with the recent revelations in the New York Times, they’re under pressure from regulatory regimes… that they just can’t sell your information as readily as they’re able to now… I think they really do need to be regulated similarly to a utility. If they’re going to house all this data, and trade it and sell it, as they have been, they need to be held to a much tighter regulatory regime, and I think that’s probably applicable to other organizations..”
At the time of our conversation, the intent of Facebook’s blockchain professional hiring spree was still ambiguous, at time of writing it has been revealed, and it is most certainly not the direction Doug and I were hoping for. Here is Lionel Laurent for Bloomberg Opinion, highlighting our disappointment more astutely than I ever could, “The prophets of blockchain had once imagined that they could create a way for individuals to control and sell their own personal data rather than letting Big Tech profit from doing it. But Facebook’s project looks like the reverse: Locking users more securely within its walled garden by offering them an in-house currency.”
Wrapping up our conversation, Doug and I spoke on what it will take to get blockchain from left field into the spotlight will be just the opposite, “It will all be behind the scenes. I’m old enough to remember the early early days of the web, pre-Netscape days, searching on the web was basically Boolean logic, it was like coding to search for anything. That’s where blockchain is, but soon, blockchain is going to be the wizard behind the curtain, no one is going to know that this elaborate way that we have changed our lives is the nitty gritty that we know it as now.”
There is so much that couldn’t be covered in this article that Doug has a nuanced and illuminating opinion of, check out his blog to read more, he is a Thought Leader in every sense. For speaking opportunities, you can contact Doug at Doug.McCalmont@BlocAlt.com