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Law professor takes world of Bitcoin and blockchain

Associate Professor Angela Walch sits for a photo.

Associate Professor Angela Walch

by Jennifer R. Lloyd (M.B.A. ’16)

Angela Walch, J.D., Associate Professor of Law, calls herself “a questioner and a critic” when it comes to the overhyped world of cryptocurrencies (think: Bitcoin) and the underlying record-keeping system behind them, known as blockchain technology.

When not teaching the St. Mary’s School of Law’s Law of Money course, among the first of its kind in the nation when launched in 2013, Walch discusses the need for greater understanding of blockchain technology. She said the technology is in consideration for use in some of society’s most important functions — from financial and health care systems to the management of nuclear weapons systems.

Walch describes blockchain technology as a record-keeping system, akin to a database, operated by multiple parties rather than a single party. The system also uses cryptography to make the record more resistant to tampering.

Her work on blockchain technology has garnered global attention, resulting in media interviews by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London, international speaking engagements and becoming a contributor to Forbes.com. In her recent paper, “The Path of the Blockchain Lexicon (and the Law),” published by Boston University’s Review of Banking & Financial Law, Walch discusses the confusing vocabulary that muddies the blockchain space.

“Policymakers considering using the blockchain technology for government systems like voting or tax records or benefits disbursements should think extremely critically and be aware of the incentives that people explaining the technology to them might have,” Walch said. “The environment is really ripe for groupthink. And groupthink, when you are talking about critical systems, is a problem.”

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