Public vs. Permissioned (Private) Blockchains

A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records called blocks, these blocks are linked and secured using cryptographic algorithms. Each block typically contains a hash (a link to a previous block), a timestamp as well as transaction data. Full nodes validate all the transactions, but are unable to settle the disagreements in regards to the order in which they were received. To prevent double-spending, the entire network needs to reach global consensus on the transaction order. It achieves this by using centralised parties or a decentralised proof of work or proof of stake algorithm (and its derivatives).

Health “data on the blockchain”

Contrary to popular belief, aided by deceptive blockchain marketing, blockchains are not a good solution for storing data. Each piece of information that you store in the blockchain sits in hundreds or more nodes (more than 100,000 in the case of Bitcoin) making it an extremely costly solution. This is why the Iryo Network doesn’t store data on blockchain but instead, uses blockchain to ensure the transparency of transactions. As a disclaimer, competitors also don’t save medical data on the chain itself (even those who use private chains). Instead, only the fingerprint aspect of a medical record file or a hash is stored on the blockchain.

Permissioned (Private) blockchains

People believe that permissioned means that only a select group of people can access the data and that’s the security feature. But it’s not. Since there is no real user data on the blockchain, (you) as a member of the public, can’t verify the actual content of it. This means that data resides in a location where corruption can stay undetected and data can be easily modified. So why does it even exist? Mainly because of the phenomena known as “hype surfing”; essentially reusing old technology and strapping a blockchain sticker on it gets IBM salesmen a foot in the door to institutions who can’t evaluate the technology accurately in the first place. Unfortunately, even some teams doing public token offerings started to sell this deeply flawed approach to the public.

Are there any legitimate uses for it? Possibly, if you have an institution that can’t establish legal relationship between them. I am not sure where can we find this use case in the wild; most corporations and institutions usually thrive on the legal documents they have signed in order to keep each other from lying/hiding/deleting/changing data. Since each institution can keep the local copy of all transactions within their own database, the question becomes a matter of dispute resolution, as opposed to a lack of trust.

Hyperledger Fabric

It’s the IBM “blockchain”. Basically Apache Kafka queue service, where they have modified the partitions. Each partition is an ordered, immutable sequence of messages which are continuously appended. They added some “nodes” to clean the inputs and voila; blockchain! We should add that there are no blocks, but batches of transactions are renamed to fit the hype better. Since everything gets written in one queue at the end of the day, IBM offers the bluemix cloud server (priced at 120.000$ per year) to host the service. Smaller test packages with a couple of input cleaning nodes go reportedly for 30.000$.

Can we see the pattern? The same tends to be true for other corporations that offer steaming, like Microsoft, Oracle, and i3 .

Permissioned (Private) Ethereum / Stellar implementations

These kinds of blockchains are forks of the original implementations but deployed in a permissioned manner. Mainly hyped because the companies behind these chains want to onboard corporations in order to generate buzz around their their chain. It’s tolerable for proof of concepts or if they plan to move to public as soon as possible; otherwise they are just using the wrong set of tools for the job.

Public Blockchain

Public chains to the rescue! Public chains offer public transaction data that can be verified in real-time by anybody that cares to run a node. The more independent users or institutions that take part in verification, the more secure and decentralised the chain becomes! At Iryo, we strive to have every clinic doing full validation of the global state for the relevant smart contracts (EOS based). Public blockchains are mainly useful for two things; value routing (including initial creation and distribution) and trustless timestamping of messages.

Conclusion

Permissioned blockchains offer nothing more than any traditional database can; any database can offer permissions, multiple input validation, multiple copies, append-only writes and logs of all people accessing it.

At Iryo, we consider databases and blockchains that are not opened to the public to be insecure they, can easily be altered by the business running it, at their discretion and it goes against the ethos of the open and transparent cryptocurrency space. Designed to keep public out and introducing “trusted” middlemen, private chains forget that trusted third parties are security holes.