UK’s National Archives Exploring Blockchain For Digital Public Documents

Blockchain, Innovation, News | June 7, 2018 By:

The National Archives, the official archive and publisher for the UK government, is exploring how blockchain technology can address issues related to archive management.

The National Archives is working with the University of Surrey and the UK Open Data Institute on a research project, dubbed Archangel. The project is investigating how to identify if a digital record has been modified and whether the changes made were legitimate. The objective is to ensure the long-term integrity of digital documents stored within public archives.

“The project is creating a prototype using blockchain technology which aims to enable archives to generate and register hashes of documents into a permissioned blockchain,” said Alex Green, the Archives’ digital preservation services manager. “Where the record has been legitimately changed, hashes of the content, alongside hashes of the code used to make the change, can also be registered on the blockchain. This would mean that whenever a digital record is modified, an audit trail is created and we are able to know exactly how a document has been edited.”

Green said their approach will result in the creation of many copies of a persistent and unchangeable record of the state of a document, which will be verifiable using the same cryptographic algorithms, many years into the future.

“As this approach matures, we hope that the ledger would be maintained collaboratively by distributing it across many participating archives both in the UK and internationally, as a promise that no individual institution could attempt to rewrite history,” Green said “This technology could transform the sustainability of digital public archives, enabling archives to share the stewardship of the records and, by sharing, guarantee the integrity of the records they hold.”

The Archangel project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which invests more than £800 million ($1B USD) a year in fields such as mathematics, materials science, and information technology.