Jetse Sprey – renaissance man – on GDPR and Blockchain

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Jetse Sprey – Legal Counsel for Europechain, co founder of EOS Amsterdam and partner in Versteeg Wigman Sprey Advocaten

Jetse is a modern renaissance man. When asked about his many hats; the law, investments and tech, he adds another – movies. His first career was as an executive producer and so movies are his first love. I wasn’t expecting that.

He thinks like a lawyer though – he first heard about blockchain in 2015 where it was much hyped at a SXSW conference and he just didn’t get it. From his perspective as a lawyer all he could imagine was a notary using it in a registry. Fast forward to 2018 when he got a call from his friend, and soon to be CEO of Europechain, Rhett Oudkerk Pool, who was already planning on being a genesis block producer on the EOS network and Jetse realised this new blockchain was much more flexible than he originally understood.

“The EOS platform was much more interesting to me – and was far from the old fashioned, energy guzzling OG blockchain. That’s how it all began.”

Jetse leapfrogged over the Ethereum blockchain, despite the presence of smart contracts.

“I still consider smart contacts not to be that smart – lawyers not coders need to interpret the contracts and to fit these pieces of code into the existing legal hemisphere.”

Rhett was arguing also for a technology solution that would meet real world regulatory requirements and rules.

“This approach appealed to me too – not the libertarian or anarchist type of blockchain believer. I knew for this technology to work it had to meet the rules of the existing world, including the recently introduced GDPR regulation.

“And I think Rhett made the right decision to bring a legal head onto the board. I think we are the only organisation to have this legal makeup.”

Governments find themselves in a tricky place according to Jetse, he reckons there is a difference between how they present their views and what they actually do; they have little room for manoeuvring.

“Which is why compliance is so important.”

Jetse explains how Europechain can be both based on a blockchain, and therefore immutable, while upholding one of the core tenets of GDPR; the right to be forgotten.

‘Every data controller has to be able to erase an individual’s data and yet a blockchain is immutable – that’s why they have a lawyer on board. The right to be forgotten is not an absolute right; it has to be balanced against the rights of other data subjects. It’s a tricky balancing act.

“So first and foremost, we store as little data onchain as possible in order to minimise delays. We have a protocol for every data controller that wants to use our chain, making sure they understand both permissions of what to load and also what to leave offchain. From our side we have a filtering option on the history so that it would be impossible to do a search for personal data.

“It is a question of educating the data controller on what data to upload and then being able to filter data afterwards.”

Jetse calls the process building in privacy by design. He also believes there are probably no other blockchains that have accessed and solved the GDPR issue.

“Some go into privacy mode but that is only one part. Blockchains and GDPR are meant to work in the real world, not some anonymous side tunnel. We have clients such as Consol Freight which is using blockchain to solve issues around supplychain and trade finance.

“We also present as a regulated business that invoices in fiat, has real offices across Europe and is staffed by real people. If you want GDPR and blockchain then you need a bricks and mortar business. It’s not funny tech it’s corporate tech.”

And as we finish the interview, we discover yet another hat and perhaps his first love after all. Jetse plays the jazz saxophone, sometimes termed the musician’s music.  Next time he promises to play the interview out.