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Governance and Regulation in a Tokenised World

Tokenisation will impact the way organizations are governed in various ways. Basic notions

inherent in corporate governance will be transformed such as accountability, responsibility, transparency and trust. There is an opposing view that there is no urgent need to put digital technologies on the regulatory agenda as the practice of governance will not be disrupted by technologies such as distributed ledgers, blockchain and IoT. Clearly, the products and services of these organisations will be affected, but traditional regulatory models are robust enough to deal with such disruption. There is an emerging view that extant regulatory models of corporate governance will struggle and need to be re-examined in light of the profound disruption to business caused by tokenisation. Tokens can be created to develop a link between the token and economic or non-economic ecosystem such as personalised data and can also be created to record or transfer this data via computer code on the distributed ledger. The general topic of tokenisation is less than six years old, and that of self-tokenisation is still a relatively new topic. The digitalisation of all kinds of both tangible and intangible assets and of the creation of new types of rights raises substantial governance issues. It has been shown that with the tokenisation of tangible assets such as securities, the new corporate stakeholders or token holders could potentially affect the balance of power within organisations. Furthermore, a new form of trust, digital trust, based on mathematical algorithms and machines is being developed as the reliance on intermediaries and third parties diminishes.

The rapid pace at which the development of the distributed ledger and blockchain is taking shape reinforces the dependency on digital trust. Digital trust has therefore an impact on how we interact with other entities and society in general. People will increasingly trust decentralised forms of governance in the future. Blockchain technology has the potential to solve principal-agent issues that flourish in the area of regulation and governance. Individuals would be able to verify and regulate access to and use of personal data. The legislation would have to adapt in order to define clearly data ownership and the use of non-consensual data. In the area of personal data, there is a trade-off between the claim that private data ownership would enhance privacy protection and sovereignty over one’s own data and the public’s need for data access in instances such as enhancing researchers’ access to data for clinical care, public health and research.

Increased transparency has the potential to protect individuals. Personal data storage on the

blockchain will allow people to own and maintain personal data, granting and rescinding access and

enabling it to be used, shared or deleted as necessary. Each user has complete transparency over what data is being collected and how it is processed. Disintermediation would simplify the process of authorising access to personal data, which would streamline processes and increase efficiency. With increased mobile application usage, a set of permissions is often granted upon download or sign-up. While opting out is generally the only way to relinquish continued access to data, the improvement of the existing permission dialog in mobile applications, and access control policies will be stored on the blockchain where the user has rights to modify them or revoke access to previously collected data.

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