The Ethical Limits of Blockchain-Enabled Markets for Private IoT Data

Philosophy and Technology 33 (3):411-432 (2020)


This paper looks at the development of blockchain technologies that promise to bring new tools for the management of private data, providing enhanced security and privacy to individuals. Particular interest present solutions aimed at reorganizing data flows in the Internet of Things architectures, enabling the secure and decentralized exchange of data between network participants. However, as this paper argues, the promised benefits are counterbalanced by a significant shift towards the propertization of private data, underlying these proposals. Considering the unique capacity of blockchain technology applications to imitate and even replace traditional institutions, this aspect may present certain challenges, both of technical and ethical character. In order to highlight these challenges and associated concerns, this paper identifies the underlying techno-economic factors and normative assumptions defining the development of these solutions amounting to technologically enabled propertization. It is argued that without careful consideration of a wider impact, such blockchain applications could have effects opposite to the intended ones, thus contributing to the erosion of privacy for IoT users.

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Georgy Ishmaev
Delft University of Technology

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