Blockchain gained widespread popularity when Bitcoin was introduced. Over the years, we’ve learned the potential for the blockchain outside of cryptocurrencies. Vendors are using the blockchain to track their products and inventory from start to finish. Digital artists have discovered the value of the blockchain as proof of ownership, and realtors have used the blockchain to track deeds and contracts.
How Identity Management Works Without the Blockchain
What if Our Identities Moved to the Blockchain
The argument against identities on the blockchain
What CERES thinks about moving ID management to the blockchain
As we enter a new era, one in which the blockchain is taking on more roles in daily life, the issue of identity has risen to the forefront of the blockchain conversation. How can service providers know who is consuming their service, and how can consumers maintain the privacy of their information? Identity theft is on the rise, and data breaches like those at Equifax and Facebook, have become ever more common. If we moved our identities to the blockchain, would they be more secure?
Right now, to identify ourselves to third-parties, we show multiple forms of data - like our face, address, and social security number, or our fingerprints, name, and date of birth. Anytime we buy an airline ticket or a beer we show full ID. However, when you use blockchain for identity verification, the benefit is that we only have to show one form of ID and the blockchain would verify the rest, sight unseen.
Jerry Cuomo, the VP of blockchain technologies at IBM, is convinced that we will have our identities moved to the blockchain within the next few years. Cuomo describes a future of “self-sovereign identities” in which each person has the power to fully control their ID and share only those pieces which are essential in any given situation. He believes the blockchain will allow this. Cuomo says the blockchain, “ensures privacy and trust, where transactions are secure, authenticated, and verifiable and endorsed by relevant, permissioned participants.”
Other experts aren’t ready to write it off, but see a lot of obstacles to a complete self-sovereign identification system. Charles Race, President of Okta (a cloud identity corporation), sees blockchain as part of a broader network of future identity tools. He says governments and state agencies would have the best chance of bringing a global ID system to market via the blockchain, but they would likely face political opposition due to privacy concerns. There would need to be oversight to create legal and enforceable privacy policies (which is difficult since blockchain is decentralized), as well as a big push to get average businesses and individuals to trust the system with their identities. It’s a hard sell.
In the opposing corner (among others) is Steve Wilson, an analyst at Constellation Research. He points out that the blockchain was explicitly built to go against the standards of identity verification. He says, “Blockchains were designed to solve problems quite different from identity management…[the Blockchain] allows total strangers to exchange real value nevertheless reliably. It works without identity and trust.” He says it’s illogical to think of the blockchain as an identity management system when it’s so fundamentally opposed to identity verification.
Our identities are precious, especially considering how much of our lives are lived digitally and how much of our personal information has been made public in the last decade. We need a more secure network to store identity markers.
To turn the blockchain into an identity management system would be to change what the blockchain is fundamentally. For identity to be accepted as valid, it needs a third party to verify the identity markers — the blockchain functions without a third party since it’s decentralized.
While we may never move to a 100% blockchain-based ID system, it’s possible that high-security systems like the TSA, law enforcement, and government organizations could use the unique attributes of the blockchain to solve targeted problems within the identity management industry.
For more information on the blockchain and how it could impact your identity management, contact CERES at firstname.lastname@example.org.