New state legislation has cleared the way forward for the establishment of blockchain-based birth, death, and marriage certificates – and possibly added a crucial building block for a broader digital ID program.
The legislation was proposed by Senator Robert Hertzberg, and authorizes county records offices to issue certified copies of vital records via blockchain technology. Last week, it was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.
As an abstract of the bill explains, while existing law requires such records “to contain certain information and to be printed on chemically sensitized security paper, as specified,” the new legislation enables a county recorder to, upon request, issue a birth, death, or marriage record “by means of verifiable credential, as defined, using blockchain technology, defined as a decentralized data system, in which the data stored is mathematically verifiable, that uses distributed ledgers or databases to store specialized data in the permanent order of transactions recorded.”
Addressing the Senate in August, Sen. Hertzberg argued that with respect to vital records, blockchain technology offers “a faster, cheaper, and more efficient delivery method, saving Californians both time and money,” adding that “it is also much more secure as blockchain is nearly impossible to hack.” Commenting to CoinDesk now that the bill has been passed into law, the senator boasted that it “shows California is still leading the way for innovation.”
Sen. Hertzberg was an early advocate for blockchain technology. In 2018, he proposed a piece of state legislation that would allow companies to store corporate information, including shareholder information, on a blockchain ledger, and that would ensure that such data is legally recognized. That bill was also passed into law.
While a cynical observer might suspect that the growing political influence of the crypto lobby represents an important factor motivating Sen. Hertzberg’s legislative efforts, the industry does not appear to be a significant backer of the politician. His top funding contributors, aside from the California Democratic Party, are mainly trade unions representing groups like firefighters and electrical workers. And his 2018 bill was proposed amid a significant crash in crypto prices that sent the industry into disarray. Sen. Hertzberg may simply be a real believer in the transformative potential of blockchain technology.
And in tying blockchain tech directly to some of the most important personal records that can be tied to a Californian’s personal identity, the senator may also be subtly, and even inadvertently, advocating for the rise of digital identity programs in the state, where stakeholders like the DMV are already exploring new possibilities in the form of mobile driver’s licenses and IDs.