Home Blockchain Amid privacy and security failures, digital IDs advance

Amid privacy and security failures, digital IDs advance

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Frustration over a growing number of privacy and security failures in recent years is driving the creation of digital identities controlled only by those whose information they contain.

Known as “self-sovereign identities,” the digital IDs will be used by consumers, businesses, their workers and governments over the next few years to verify everything from credit worthiness and college diplomas to licenses and business-to-business credentials.

“We are slowly graduating from crawling to walking. It takes one to two years ’til we have reliable capabilities to spark meaningful decentralized identity adoption,” said Homan Farahmand, a senior research director at Gartner. “A major non-technical hurdle is for organizations to learn the concept and take the necessary steps to appropriately adapt their business processes to decentralized identity ecosystems.”

A growing number of organizations is looking to better understand decentralized identity technology, which is predicated on blockchain electronic ledgers. Currently, there are more proof-of-concept projects than production systems involving a small number of organizations. The pilots, being trialed in government, financial services, insurance, healthcare, energy and manufacturing, don’t yet amount to an entire ecosystem, according to Farahmand.

“While these projects help identify gaps such as governance, user experience, standardization and interoperability issues, none of them [rise to the level of] a practical decentralized ecosystem to bootstrap pervasive adoption at this point,” Farahmand said.

What is a self-sovereign identity?

Self-sovereign identity envisions consumers and businesses eventually taking control of their identifying information on electronic devices and online, enabling them to provide validation of credentials without relying on a central repository, as is done now. Self-sovereign identity technology also takes the reins away from the centralized ID repositories held by the social networks, banking institutions and government agencies.

A person’s credentials would be held in an encrypted digital wallet for documenting trusted relationships with the government, banks, employers, schools and other institutions. But it’s important to note that self-sovereign ID systems are not self-certifying. The onus on whom to trust depends on the other party. Whoever you present your digital ID to has to decide whether the credentials in it are acceptable.

“For example, If I apply for a job…, and they require me to prove I graduated from a specific school and need to see my diploma, I can present that in digital form.” said Ali. “And, most likely that credential would have to be cryptographically signed by the school that issued it. So the relying party – my place of work – would have to decide when I present the credential if the signing key is something they trust.”

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