Whistleblowers are important to every society and government. They are the honest people in the system which help with the checks and balances and report the wrongdoings and discrepancies. Therefore, governments & companies need to encourage them. They need to be protected and be reassured at the same time about their privacy and safety. If there is a robust system out there, which helps them file complaints anonymously, it can be a boost to the whistleblower system.
As I was going through the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011 in India, its salient features say:
- The Act seeks to protect whistleblowers, i.e. persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offense by a public servant.
- Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization may make such a disclosure to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.
- Every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant.
- The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. The Act penalizes any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.
- The Act prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.
Although the law and policy makers try to ensure that the system works well and delivers the intended benefit, but there have been instances in the past where the whistleblowers have been harassed and even lost lives (although the reasons for losing their lives cannot be directly related to it, but the timelines can be). The problems that I find with this system are:
- If someone leaks the identity or information, there’s no traceability as to who did it.
- Let’s say there are 20 people involved in handling the complaint filed by the whistleblower, there’s no need for each of those to know the name and identity of the whistleblowers. We can restrict it to a few people only. This directly reduces the chances of the information leakage.
It is only a thought for now, if we can bring this system on blockchain and use the anonymity feature to our benefit, which has been perceived as a disadvantage until now. The Bitcoin, which is a public blockchain, hides the identity of people transacting bitcoins sounds beneficial for this purpose.
This directly delivers the following advantages:
- Builds a reassuring system for the honest whistleblowers’ protection
- Traces the complaint status in real time with transparency
- Traces the information leakages in the system
- Since the information and identity is available to few, it still keeps a check on false complaints filed.
I understand that the system has to be regulated and the government has to be open & honest at its heart to implement such a system. I would like to throw open this topic for discussion. What are your thoughts on it?