A New Way Of Looking At Identity
Here’s the thing: identity on the Internet is broken.
Not just a little broken, but seriously broken. Like a fish in water, you can’t see how dirty the water is. Because identity is currently built in a less than optimal way, crimes like phishing can cost a typical Fortune 1000 an average of $4 million per year. Ransomware, the fastest growing form of cybercrime that has grown 1500% in only two years, has caused $5 billion in damages globally last year alone. And it’s expected to quadruple next year. And we all know that hackers using bots can seriously interfere with national elections. GDPR is only the beginning of regulation around identity.
We need a new way of looking at identity, but to do so requires a mind shift––to evolve beyond the idea that your identity needs to be controlled by a government. This new way of deconstructing and reformulating identity requires that you become your own government, to be your own sovereign. Just as Bitcoin allows you to “be your own bank”, the decentralized identity will empower you to fully control your own identity. The true power of the blockchain may not be in financial services but in more secure and profound identity services.
What’s happening is that we are now transitioning from a digital feudal system, similar to when vassals owned vast amounts of land in the Middle Ages. Serfs worked the land to create value but most of the value was appropriated by the vassal. Today the new asset class is data—where value is created by all of us but captured entirely by digital vassals and sovereigns (governments, social media companies, search engines, banks, etc.). To recapture your data rights, we need to stage an identity revolution.
This new way to implement universally unique identifiers is called “DIDs”, or decentralized identifiers, using special features provided by blockchains. These are being developed and promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium and a critical mass of companies, from Microsoft to Ethereum. Just like Bitcoin, which uses the blockchain at its core to provide trust in a trustless environment, the DID can provide identity services in an environment that do not support trust. I won’t go into the details, but it’s enough to know that we have a shot at getting it right.
Let’s talk about what this means.
For example, decentralized ID could be the missing link to getting electronic healthcare records online and fully digitized. It could create a revolution in IoT in terms of device identity. The Department of Homeland Security and many other governmental bodies are working on blockchains for passports, visas, driver’s licenses. Decentralized ID and an associated technology called the verifiable claim could create a revolution in capital markets and digitizing compliance. And a form of decentralized ID (lovingly named “DIDauth”) could enable a new way to do global single sign-on, simplifying your life so multiple passwords become a quaint thing of the past, like a rotary phone or 8 track tapes. And recently, HTC has announced that they’re going to make a “blockchain phone” that will embed decentralized identity into the phone itself, offering all sorts of revolutionary functionality.
Now let’s take this all the way. Imagine a world where identity simply works. Imagine the end of phishing. The end of spam. The end of fake news. And the beginning of a new era for society built on an interconnecting web of trust. This is the true mission of decentralized identity and why it’s the single most important foundational element of blockchain future.
To get the word out about decentralized identity, GSMI is now producing the world’s first virtual conference on blockchain identity. It takes place on July 24th, many of the leaders of the decentralized identity movement will be presenting, and what’s more… it’s free. You can register online at www.BusinessofBlockchain.com.
Guest Post by Moses Ma, Partner, Future Lab Consulting
Moses is an innovation consultant who works with senior executives at global companies and organizations to become more agile and innovative. As a technology visionary, he has been praised in Time Magazine, the New York Times and other publications. Over the years, he’s been involved in the forefront of many exciting technologies – he was a hit video game designer who literally invented the category of networked games; took an uncapitalized software startup and built it into the 97th largest, 7th fastest growing, and 11th most profitable in the country; and at the CommerceNet thinktank, he invented the concept of eMarkets. Currently, he manages the FutureLab Blockchain Lab, where he manages several exciting projects and ventures. He is co-chair of the Verifiable News Initiative at the W3C, which plans to develop countermeasures for fake news. Also, he is a Venture Partner at SparkChain Capital, focusing on blockchain technology and applications.