An online backlash has begun against Britain’s plans to use Blockchain in its welfare system.

The UK Government launched a trial in June to use Blockchain to record welfare payments and monitor how they are spent.

“Claimants are using an app on their phones through which they are receiving and spending their benefit payments,” a press release announced. “With their consent, their transactions are being recorded on a distributed ledger to support their financial management.”

The announcement sparked public criticism from current and former members of the UK’s Government Digital Service.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger that is said to be impossible to alter once a record is made. It is commonly trialled to ensure the security of information. A side-effect of the trial, however, means that it will permanently record the spending details of people on benefits.

GDS founder Tom Loosemore asked on Twitter “Why is DWP using Blockchain to record forever, immutably, ppl on benefits”, adding “to then limit how £s spent”.

The current head of the UK GDS, Steve Foreshew-Cain then wrote “You can be sure that the user need wasn’t: Pls record forever, immutably, details of my benefits and restrict how I spend them”.

He continued that “it’s not the most vulnerable in our society being served here but divisive ideology of ruler and ruled.”

Ben Hammersley, a former advisor to the prime minister, added that the move is “spectacularly sinister.”

Loosemore also revealed that the announcement of this project was first made on the day that he decided to resign from the Government Digital Service. This departure formed part of an exodus from the unit of a number of founding staff members.

Opposition politician Chi Onwurah asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, for comment in the House of Commons following the reaction on social media. “Government is trialing Distributed Ledger technology or Blockchain for payments and spending of claimant’s benefits. It’s a fantastic new technology, but government’s own report says it needs a regulatory ethical and data framework,” she said.

“How do we know that vulnerable benefits claimants are not being forced to share their data without giving proper informed consent?”

The Minister responded that “this kind of technology is very new, I confess I’m not an expert on it.”

A DWP spokesperson said that the trial involved fewer than 30 people, adding that “this trial is designed to explore how distributed ledger technology could help support financial inclusion and budgeting support through the anonymous capture of data and does not place any restrictions or limits on what a claimant can spend their welfare payments on.”

“We will continue to monitor new innovations in the marketplace which would represent value for money, safeguard information and protect and improve payments to customers.”

Governments around the world are experimenting with Blockchain to store information securely so that it cannot be hacked. For example, Estonia uses Blockchain to store healthcare records and Sweden uses the technology for its land registry. This UK project is the first to trial Blockchain in the welfare system.