Here is me on a the Creative Futurism podcast talking about Self-Sovereign Identity. We don’t go into the technology details but stay with the big picture concepts. What is happening is we finally have the pieces coming together for an identity layer of the internet where people are in control of their own identities.
This technology will have significant implications for how people interact with governments, how people manage their relationship with businesses, how we do banking, how we manage our medical and educational records and how we relate to each other peer to peer.
Self-Sovereign Identity is now possible because of these technologies.
Probably the most important one, that is often not recognized or observed that often because we focus so much on technical technologies rather then the social technologies that makes their innovation possible. I just wrote an article about this for Open Democracy.
The Social Human Fabric: This is critical to why we actually are having these breakthroughs woven together to create the open standards for self-sovereign identity to become real. A dedicated group of individuals that have been actively meeting face to face twice a year for over 12 years at the Internet Identity Workshop, and other industry events like the RSA Conference, Cloud Identity Summit and the new kid on the collaboration block Rebooting the Web of Trust.
Smart Phones: The iPhone is 10 years old and is key to supporting the individual having a computer in their pocket to manage their identity attributes and private keys.
Cloud Computing: Key for individuals having cloud agent and wallet
PKI – Public Key Infrastructure: This is not new either first created over 25 years ago. It is the basis of encrypted communication but there have been huge usability challenges that have prevented usage
Shared Ledger Technologies (also called Distributed Ledgers or Blockchains): Key for storing Decentralized Identifiers and the public keys associated with them. This creates the framework for decentralized yet globally resolvable
Open Standards for Decentralized Identifiers – DIDs: Community leadership worked hard to support those working on decentralized identifiers on block chains to actually collaborate on a minimally common set of protocols.
PairWise or Directed Identifiers: For each relationship with each person or entity in the system individuals create a pairwise identifier – a unique identifier a new DID just for that relationship. This means they don’t leak information by using the same DID for different connections / relationships.
Open Standards for Verified Claims: This work has been going on for many years at the W3C and leverages the Decentralized Identifier standard to empower issuers to issue verified claims to individuals. These include courses taken or degrees issues
How does it work?
This is still being figured out.
I have seen working wallets in the lab.
Individuals have to get an Edge Wallet – an application on their smart phone and set up a relationship with a service provider to support their cloud wallet. Wait a second they have to trust another service? Yep think of this like a bank account – we have a network of service providers that help us store and manage our money – but it is our money – not theirs. We always have the right to move service providers to change who we trust to work on our behalf in this ecosystem. Then using these tools we create a Decentralized Identifier a DID and this gets published into a distributed ledger. Its a really really long number that we prove we own because attached to it in the DDO (DID Document) is a public key. In your wallet is a private key that proves you are the owner of the public key in the DDO and thus the owner of that identifier.
All identity information is stored in the cloud agent. NO IDENTITY INFORMATION IS EVER STORED on CHAIN.
Individuals who want to maintain separation between all their different identities will be able to do so because each relationship has a different DID associated with it.
What can it Do?
This is the infrastructure for individuals to start sharing and collecting identity information that they collect and manage without third parties seeing where they share it/how they transact.
It is also the infrastructure for individuals to start connecting to each other one-on-one to connect with secure encrypted channels for sharing and connection.
It is new infrastructure for social sharing and collaboration providing a place to root individuals identities that provide the opportunity for real alternatives to centralized networks like Facebook.