Digital identity. Those of us lucky enough to have one, suffer from our lack of control over it. Those of us who don’t, suffer by being excluded from modern society.
Our digital identities are owned and controlled by the organizations with which we interact. I started counting the user IDs and passwords that I regularly use and got frustrated–stopping at 25. How many login ID / password / accounts do you have? In addition to the quantity, our "identities" are fragmented and duplicated across the digital world, making them difficult to link together and vulnerable to being stolen, faked, lost or altered. All of which drives significant cost and risk.
As more and more organizations take advantage of the potential for distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain) to enable shared access to data, many of the challenges of "identity" can be solved.
You had a single "digital identity," allowing you to be the same "you" anywhere and everywhere
You had control over your data and could decide what information you shared and who could see it
You received better services and value because all your information was integrated and consistent
The history of "attestations" (verifications) that authorities have provided you (e.g., your citizenship, education history, employment history, etc.) could never be taken away because only you were in control of your identity
You could provide entities with the answers to their identity-related questions without actually sharing your personal information. Think about going to your local polling place. You must prove you live in a particular jurisdiction to be allowed to vote there. Today you might show your driver’s license, which likely has your date of birth, your address, even your weight! Wouldn’t it be better if the polling place could simply send a query to your digital identity asking to verify your residency? It only needs to know that yes, with supporting attestations from places like your bank, utilities companies and the DMV, you do indeed live in that district—your exact address, age and weight don’t need to be shared to cast a vote.
Now imagine what life is like without a digital identity. More than a billioni people have no form of digital identity, which prevents them from being included in modern society and hinders efforts to provide them access to resources and support. Having a digital identity needs to be a universally accepted human right. We, along with Microsoft, are very proud to be a Founding Member of the ID2020 Alliance. Together we will work to achieve ID2020’s mission to bring a safe, verifiable and persistent digital identity system to scale.
As a key first step, we have built a prototype using Accenture’s Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS), built upon the Unique Identity Service Platform (UISP) and collaborating closely with The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.) The BIMS technology captures and stores fingerprints, iris data and facial images of individuals, providing undocumented refugees with their only personal identity record. Because it uses several biometric modalities, BIMS is more inclusive and accurate in matching an identity and de-duplicating multiple enrollment attempts. This work has been in the field since 2013.
We are combining this biometrics capability with the work in development by the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), of which Accenture and Microsoft are founding members.
DIF is furthering the ability of people, organizations, and machines to have a single identifier akin to today’s DNS entries for computers. Part of our work is to solve the ‘last mile’ problem of associating the identifier with the human (or similar characteristics of a thing).
With these capabilities, users of blockchain-based systems will interact as a single consistent identity, to which all their activity (value & information) will be linked and indexed. Users will have the control over who gets to access their information through granular access control for each piece of information. Counterparties to the user will be able to verify that the data hasn’t been tampered with and evaluate the attestations and the provenance of their origins.
We hope this will be a game changer for all of us—simplifying the lives of those that already have a digital identity and improving the lives of those that are long overdue for the rights and protections a digital identity can provide. We know it will take the efforts and commitment of many individuals and enterprises around the globe and I’m encouraged by the energy, engagement and focus of those who are already part of the effort. We hope you’ll join us on this journey. Please visit ID2020.org to learn more.