What does Identity mean to you?
Hint: It depends on the context you are looking at the identity in.
Different people have different meanings for identity.
For a Bank, Identity might be your Account Number and your Social Security Number.
For the SEC, it might be anything that validates KYC.
For Hospitals, it is your Healthcare record
For you favorite bar next door, it is your Driver’s License (or anything that establishes your age over 21.)
THE TRUTH IS, EVERYONE LOOKS AT YOUR IDENTITY DIFFERENTLY.
Establishing your digital Identity has always been a very challenging problem to solve.
Everyone interprets it differently.
Here’s the truth: The REAL IDENTITY IS YOU.
Institutions around you simply codify those attestations about you. For e.g. it is the government that attests the fact that you were born in a given country by providing you with a birth certificate or a passport.
With the explosion of Social media, we made the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook the custodians of our Identity.
For them, your Identity is your Social Network. While it was all innocuous and convenient at the beginning, the consequences of handing over some of our most private information are dire, and are just coming to light now.
It is time to rethink who’s in charge of this information.
The correct answer always is: YOU.
YOU and ONLY YOU should be in charge of your identity.
The World is slowly waking up to this reality and are relying on us to come up with a solution. No longer can we rest knowing that some other party controls access to our identity without our permission.
In case you didn’t already know, ‘The Internet is getting extremely dangerous.’
Beyond Human Life Forms
If the case for preserving and protecting Human Identity wasn’t enough, we’re slowly waking up to another reality.
We are introducing 1000s of devices to act on our behalf.
Whether it is Alexa, Siri or Cortana enabled devices, or self-driving trucks and automobiles, or drones delivering critical care and goods, we are only going to make this problem of identity worse.
Whether or not you like, these devices are going to need their own Identity. YOU as the OWNER, will eventually be responsible for the actions of these devices. If the problem of identity was so complex in humans, imagine adding ‘things’ to the problem.
Let us not make the same mistake we made with our Identity when it comes to devices and ‘things’ that was make decisions on our behalf, without consulting us in many cases.
It’s really time to RETHINK IDENTITY.
We already have amazing models that we can learn from. These have proven more than successful on the Internet.
The SMTP protocol (i.e. Email) is one such classic example and a living testimony in interoperability.
Imagine if this Email was developed as an application as opposed to a protocol. It would have been controlled by a few.
BUT, because it was defined as a PROTOCOL, and the protocol was OPEN, and specifications CONCRETE, the playing field was leveled. That is why Email is so successful.
Anyone can become an Email provider as long as they follow the protocol.
This is what makes Email so interoperable and portable.
Which begs the question, “Could we define Identity as a protocol?”
Could you make someone else a Custodian of your Identity? As long as you allowed authorized access to your Identity on an as needed basis, wouldn’t it be an ideal solution?
Introducing Digital Identity & DIF
The Digital Identity Foundation is based on the premise of building an open-source decentralized identity ecosystem.
You will be able to attach one or more Identities to yourself. These identities would be stored on a Blockchain and will be linked to zero trust data stores.
All your private information will be withheld by you as an Entity, and only you get to decide who has access to it.
You may make someone a custodian of your Identity (and pay them a fair price for it).
You also have the rights to your own data and move it to another custodian if you so desire.
Your private data will NEVER be stored on the Blockchain.
This concept makes your Identity revolve around YOU.
Imagine the Possibilities
When you are in complete control of your data.
You decide how someone can access specific parts of your identity.
You carry your data around from one provider to another. For e.g.: Say, you left a restaurant review on Yelp. Why can’t you carry that over to UrbanSpoon?
Or a more concrete example, your HEALTH RECORD belongs to you, and not some provider who charges exorbitant rates for access or makes you go through red-tape before sharing it with other provider.
The world is slowly waking up to the concept of ‘Ownership Rights’.
The world is slowly waking up to the concept of ‘Self Sovereign Identity’ – i.e. an identity where you are in complete control of your personal data, no matter where it resides.
The GDPR law in Europe is a perfect starting point to this revolution. The US has a lot of catching up to do.
The Facebook fiasco has opened our eyes. And things will change from here on.
Let us bring about this change together. Join the DIF with other organizations to bring about this change.
In the next post, we will look at some practical ways by which people are solving the problem of identity.
Until then, Ciao!
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash
Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash