Archival repositories rely on the authenticity of records. The potential manipulation of records and information present a unique challenge to archival repositories and their mission to collect, maintain and provide access to the authentic records. The purpose of this paper is to outline the technical aspects of blockchain and describe potential records management and archival implications of the technology. The implications to consider include data management, records existing on a blockchain and records disposition.
The approach included reviews of technical literature and attendance at blockchain conferences, workshops and seminars. The literature review focused on general studies, technical publications, use cases and nascent applications for managing records created and stored on a blockchain. The approach is intended to answer the questions: what basic information do records managers need to understand blockchain? How will blockchain technology impact records management? Does blockchain shift toward decentralized records management?
Implemented properly, blockchain technology can immutably record transactions and provide independent verification and authentication of digital records. Given the ease with which electronic records can sometimes be manipulated, the promise of certainty and third-party verification has drawn sizeable interest and investment. This paper shows records exist on blockchains and must be managed appropriately. The distributed structure inherent in blockchains is a shift from centralized records management and will challenge the approach and assumptions of the profession. Records managers must determine recordkeeping requirements before developing a business application using blockchain and the fixed nature of blockchains means that these considerations must be included at the outset.
This proposed paper began as a blockchain white paper produced by the US National Archives for the federal records management community. It has been re-focused as a general review paper for the Records Management Journal to explain blockchain and show how it may be used to address broader records and information management concerns such as authenticity, veracity, and trustworthiness.
The authors thank Victoria Lemieux and Cassie Findlay for providing insight and resources for our research and development of the blockchain white paper.
Bhatia, S., Douglas, E. and Most, M. (2020), "Blockchain and records management: disruptive force or new approach?", Records Management Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-08-2019-0040Download as .RIS
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