Identity grab bag
Technology is expanding beyond our ability to secure it. Our identities, birthdays, passwords, and the names of our first pets make up the candy bowl of identity for any grubby hand to defile. Currently, our private information is protected by passwords, an antiquated system of whispering secrets to get in the door. Our systems authenticate without actually identifying. This means that anyone with one of your special codes (and we know you have a different password for absolutely everything, right folks?) can access your information, and pretend to be you in the digital world.
But what if rather than passing along a code that anyone could subvert, our identity was confirmed by the sheer fact that this is us. In a system where everyone controls their individual identity, any company honoring this technology could know immediately if we are who we say we are, or if we’re not.
A new international non profit Sovrin Foundation, is proposing exactly that type of system. Sovrin’s founding goal is to create individual personal identities on the internet in the same way our machines have unique IP’s.
Securing your online presence
Our relationship with our internet identities is founded on mistrust, on the very principle that anyone, with the right flick of keys, could be anyone online. Needless to say, with the growing Internet of Things, that online identity now controls more of your life than you’re probably aware.
Calendar dates, bank info, love letters, the dimness of the lights in your living room, your fridge temperature, and car stats are all protected by the same fragile system. Soon everything with an on and off switch will be connected, leaving us exposed to unimaginable infiltration.
By creating a self-sovereign identity (SSI) for everyone on the planet, Sovrin will change the way we interact with the internet and the way the internet interacts with us.
Each individual or organization will own and have 100 percent control over their identity and with whom they share it. This means that you will choose to share your personal information with governments and institutions rather than governments and institutions storing vast amounts of unsecured identifying data like bait for every two-bit hacker looking to make a buck.
Internet of identity
Sovrins system is complex and massive. Their goal is to be an “internet of identity,” a disconnected but regulating body that manages the systems of identity without having access to the data they manage. Their board of directors is comprised of professionals from an array of industries and countries to ensure neutrality and transparency.
Identities will be broken up into individual packets. Your birthday, address, and phone number will be separately stored, disconnected pieces of information that will only be accessed as you see fit. That way no one has access to all of your information except for you.
With Sovrin we can safely achieve what we can’t currently do online for fear of identity theft.
We can make big purchases, access comprehensive medical records, apply for marriage and birth certificates, even buy homes. Even notarizing may not have to exist in a world where Sovrin has their way. Individual blockchain identities may not replace traditional systems for every company, but users will likely be able to update their Sovrin account to include institutions that may still use passwords.
Something for everyone
The Internet of Things is a complex system in itself that would benefit from a globally recognized blockchain identity like Sovrin. Users will be able to quickly connect devices to their home network of devices without a lot of set up and pairing.
Additionally, businesses wouldn’t have to assume the liability of ensuring that every consumer is who they say they are. Likewise, Sovrin would put consumers on the same playing field. They won’t have to jump through hoops just to purchase something, or remember a million different passwords.
This issue is not just a first world problem for online shoppers, though. Identity storage and identification is a significant question in growing countries as well.
Sovrin proposes that this system will give developing nations an easy way to document land ownership, birth and death certificates, medical records, and refugee information.
We welcome the sovrinty
Sovrin is sort of like the much bigger version of Amazon’s experimental brick and mortar store. It relies on individual identities to create accountability. Once they know that you are who you say you are, Amazon is confident that your connected financial accounts will remit payment for what you took from the shelves. Sovrin seeks to create implicit trust in a world where trust is an oblique and guarded concept.
People just have to be who they are, not remember usernames and passwords and the name of their first dog. Sovrin will help protect all of us from fraud, and keep all of our wonderful devices that we’ve become so reliant on safe.
Sovrin expects to put their program into production in the beginning of 2017. If you’re interested in contributing to the open source service, check out their GitHub page.