The Massachusetts Senate announced on July 5 the consolidation of several hearings on blockchain, digital assets, and digital privacy into a single assembly on July 13, highlighting the growing significance of these topics in the state.
In a four-hour hearing, the ‘Advanced Information Technology, the Internet, and Cybersecurity Committee’ will discuss notable bills, each with significant implications for the state’s approach to digital technology, blockchain, and cryptocurrency.
Launching a pilot program for digital innovation in the public sector
Among these proposed laws is “An Act creating a pilot program to explore digital innovation in government.” The bill proposes a groundbreaking pilot program by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to explore the use of blockchain technology for securely storing and accessing real property records.
In an era of increasing digital transformation and global scrutiny over U.S. crypto regulation, the proposed legislation represents a significant stride toward integrating blockchain into government operations.
Setting up a specialized blockchain and cryptocurrency commission
Furthermore, a critical bill under consideration in the combined session is “An Act establishing a special Commission on blockchain and cryptocurrency.” The bill was introduced on Jan. 19 to explore blockchain technology’s implications and potential uses within the government framework.
With a broad range of stakeholders set to provide input, the commission would be responsible for studying the feasibility of using blockchain technology in state and local government, its potential impact on state revenues due to the proliferation of cryptocurrency, and the advisability of government agencies accepting cryptocurrency as payment, among other considerations.
Further, the commission is examining whether existing definitions of blockchain are sufficient in the context of enforceable laws, the advisability of government and business advisory availability with a focus on sectors like cannabis retail stores, and the potential need for regulating energy consumption associated with blockchain operations.
The commission’s mandate also extends to identifying the best practices for leveraging blockchain technology to benefit the Commonwealth, determining which state entities should be responsible for enforcing blockchain regulations, and other blockchain-related topics, as suggested by the commission.
Per the bill’s terms, the commission is directed to report its findings within a year of its establishment to foster a positive environment for blockchain technology in Massachusetts. The report will provide a comprehensive master plan of recommendations geared towards nurturing an appropriate expansion of blockchain technology in the Commonwealth.
Safeguarding private online communications and activities
The final bill on the agenda is “An Act to protect private electronic communication, browsing, and other activity.” This legislation seeks to provide robust protections for private electronic communication and browsing activity from government intrusion.
For instance, it proposes to make it unlawful for government offices, law enforcement agencies, or public officials to obtain reverse-location or reverse-keyword requests. These requests often compel the disclosure of records of unnamed individuals or track unidentified electronic devices, potentially infringing on personal privacy.
The bill also outlines strict rules regarding cell site simulators and devices used to locate or track electronic devices, limiting their use to specific scenarios and ensuring rigorous safeguards for non-targets privacy.
These bills combined represent a significant step in Massachusetts’ approach to regulating digital technology, particularly blockchain and cryptocurrency. By fostering innovation and protecting citizen privacy, the state seeks to balance leveraging emerging technologies and safeguarding individual rights.
While the outcomes of these hearings are yet to be determined, the potential for precedent-setting decisions is clear. The assembly’s discussions and decisions could significantly influence Massachusetts and perhaps set a benchmark for blockchain and cryptocurrency regulations nationwide.