Monday, February 12, 2018

Digital Identities and Blockchain

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To that end today we are sharing our best thinking based on what we’ve learned from our decentralized identity incubation, an effort which is aimed at enabling richer experiences, enhancing trust, and reducing friction, while empowering every person to own and control their Digital Identity.
  1. Own and control your Identity. Today, users grant broad consent to countless apps and services for collection, use and retention beyond their control. With data breaches and identity theft becoming more sophisticated and frequent, users need a way to take ownership of their identity. After examining decentralized storage systems, consensus protocols, blockchains, and a variety of emerging standards we believe blockchain technology and protocols are well suited for enabling Decentralized IDs (DID).
  2. Privacy by design, built in from the ground up.
    Today, apps, services, and organizations deliver convenient, predictable, tailored experiences that depend on control of identity-bound data. We need a secure encrypted digital hub (ID Hubs) that can interact with user’s data while honoring user privacy and control.
  3. Trust is earned by individuals, built by the community.
    Traditional identity systems are mostly geared toward authentication and access management. A self-owned identity system adds a focus on authenticity and how community can establish trust. In a decentralized system trust is based on attestations: claims that other entities endorse – which helps prove facets of one’s identity.
  4. Apps and services built with the user at the center.Some of the most engaging apps and services today are ones that offer experiences personalized for their users by gaining access to their user’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII). DIDs and ID Hubs can enable developers to gain access to a more precise set of attestations while reducing legal and compliance risks by processing such information, instead of controlling it on behalf of the user.
  5. Open, interoperable foundation.To create a robust decentralized identity ecosystem that is accessible to all, it must be built on standard, open source technologies, protocols, and reference implementations. For the past year we have been participating in the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) with individuals and organizations who are similarly motivated to take on this challenge. We are collaboratively developing the following key components:
  • Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) – a W3C spec that defines a common document format for describing the state of a Decentralized Identifier
  • Identity Hubs – an encrypted identity datastore that features message/intent relay, attestation handling, and identity-specific compute endpoints. 
  • Universal DID Resolver – a server that resolves DIDs across blockchains 
  • Verifiable Credentials – a W3C spec that defines a document format for encoding DID-based attestations.   
  1. Ready for world scale:To support a vast world of users, organizations, and devices, the underlying technology must be capable of scale and performance on par with traditional systems. Some public blockchains (Bitcoin [BTC], Ethereum, Litecoin, to name a select few) provide a solid foundation for rooting DIDs, recording DPKI operations, and anchoring attestations. While some blockchain communities have increased on-chain transaction capacity (e.g. blocksize increases), this approach generally degrades the decentralized state of the network and cannot reach the millions of transactions per second the system would generate at world-scale. To overcome these technical barriers, we are collaborating on decentralized Layer 2 protocols that run atop these public blockchains to achieve global scale, while preserving the attributes of a world class DID system.
  2. Accessible to everyone:The blockchain ecosystem today is still mostly early adopters who are willing to spend time, effort, and energy managing keys and securing devices. This is not something we can expect mainstream people to deal with. We need to make key management challenges, such as recovery, rotation, and secure access, intuitive and fool-proof. 

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