Notes From the WEF: The Coming Battle Between Surveilled and Private Money

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"The number one use case of blockchain technology promoted by the government is data sharing," Zhang Jiachen, CEO of the startup Guangzhishu Technology, said on the sidelines of the WEF. Jiachen said her firm works with several Chinese government agencies.

Neha Narula, director of MIT's Digital Currency Initiative, described the dozens of central bank experiments with digital assets in 2020 as "Inevitable." Along those lines, the WEF published a Central Bank Digital Currency Policy-Maker Toolkit Wednesday to help those projects access global standards if they choose.

Most experts at Davos appear to agree blockchain technology should be used for more data collection, not self-sovereign finance.

"This money can buy propaganda campaigns. There needs to be unique identities of natural persons in this data."

In China, there are already efforts to use government data, everything from healthcare data to telecommunications records, to shape financial services offered by the private sector.

"The government owns a lot of data," Jiachen said.

"They want to enable the private sector to be able to use them but they don't want to hand over the data ownership. So we help the government in supporting their data-sharing initiatives."

Most raw data isn't recorded on the blockchain, she said.

Even private investors from a variety of countries, who asked not to be named, were curious about central bank experiments but wary of self-custodied assets.

In order to avoid dystopian consequences, Weyl is working with organizations like the World Bank to develop the Data Freedom Act, which asserts data collectors have a "Fiduciary responsibility and democratic responsibility" to both protect it and not flagrantly use data without consent.