Germany’s liberal party FDP is urging the government to look into blockchain-based university degree verification. Swiss universities have already launched such pilots, but in Germany, there could be a conflict with EU data protection laws.

Universities in several countries have already launched pilots for blockchain-based university degree verification systems, for example in Malaysia, Canada, and Switzerland. Now German politicians of the liberal party FDP demand the same for German universities. The party has published a roadmap on how the German government could implement such a system in cooperation with public education institutions and private businesses.

The idea is to store university degrees on a blockchain so the digital degrees can get shared for job applications in a “simple and reliable manner.” This will lead to “new opportunities for automated job matching,” reads the FDP’s announcement. As a result, companies could reduce the time and cost of cross-checking references, resumes, and university transcripts.

The FDP urges the government to take concrete steps to drive the development of such a system and reach out to “creative actors from the private economy.” As the first step of a potential public-private partnership, the government should launch a Hackathon in 2020.

Germany’s digital association Bitkom agrees and published a press release, requesting a “massive build-up of blockchain expertise in the higher education sector.” Bitkom suggests to create new departments and university programs to build a bridge between academic computer science and the private economy. To facilitate cooperation, Bitkom suggests the government to launch a dedicated Blockchain Hub.

Switzerland a step ahead; universities in Basel and St. Gallen already verify degrees via blockchain

If Germany is planning to build a blockchain system for university degrees, politicians may want to take a look at recent developments in neighboring Switzerland. The University of St. Gallen, for example, has recently announced a blockchain system to verify academic degrees.

To make it happen, the university has partnered with BlockFactory, which will transfer the degrees to the Ethereum blockchain and create a hash code. The secured document will then be returned to the university and handed to the student. Anyone who wants to verify the degree can do so via a simple drag-and-drop function at BlockFactory’s website. Likewise, Basel university is already running a similar system.

Blockchain-based degree verification may conflict with EU data protection laws

On the contrary to Switzerland, Germany is a member of the European Union (EU), meaning the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has to be considered. According to the FDP, there will be a legal conflict between a blockchain-based verification system for university degrees – and also blockchain applications in general – and the GDPR.

GDPR requires some data to be erased from the internet if private citizens request it. This is called the “right to be forgotten.” However, information stored on the blockchain cannot be erased, meaning the technology butts heads with the regulation.

Therefore, the FDP suggests that to build a blockchain-based verification system for university degrees, the EU first needs to amend its GDPR requirements. “The user needs to remain in control of his own data,” says the FDP.

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