E-Residency and Blockchain

Posted: 2 Apr 2016  

Clare Linda Sullivan

Law Center Georgetown University

Eric W. Burger

Georgetown University

Date Written: March 31, 2016


In December 2014 Estonia became the first nation to open its digital borders to enable anyone, anywhere in the world to apply to become an Estonian e-Resident. Although labeled ‘residency,’ Estonian e-Residency is essentially a commercial initiative. The e-ID issued to Estonian e-residents enables commercial activities in the public and private sectors. It does not provide citizenship in its traditional sense. The e-ID provided to e-Residents is not a travel document but in many ways it is an international ‘passport’ to the virtual world. Like a passport, an e-ID is issued by a nation state. Unlike a passport, any citizen of any country can acquire this validated identity. As such, E-Residency is a profound change in global identity management. In addition, the recent announcement that the Estonian government is now partnering with Bitnation to offer a public notary service to Estonian e-Residents based on blockchain technology is of major significance. In particular, e-Residency raises questions of sovereignty, who vouches and backs identity, and who accepts a nation-state backed, yet commercial Internet identity. The application of blockchain to e-Residency has the potential to fundamentally change the way identity information is controlled and authenticated and used in the communications context. As far as we are aware, this is the first study of its kind to examine these policy issues around blockchain. This paper examines the legal, policy and technical implications of this development.

Keywords: Internet Governance, Identity Management, Economic Sovereignty, Policy

Suggested Citation

Sullivan, Clare Linda and Burger, Eric W., E-Residency and Blockchain (March 31, 2016). TPRC 44: The 44th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2757492

Clare Linda Sullivan (Contact Author)

Law Center Georgetown University ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
4435348980 (Phone)

Eric William Burger

Georgetown University ( email )

37th & O St., NW
St. Mary's Hall 342C
Washington, DC 20057
United States
+1 202 687 4107 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://people.cs.georgetown.edu/~eburger/

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