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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Future of Digital Identity

Identity
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, July 31, 2017
4:59 pm

Digitalidentity

Following a blog post recommendation by Emma Firth, Communications Director of Digi.me, I just read an insightful article, “Transforming the Digital Identity Landscape,” in the June 2017 issue of Leo, an e-magazine published by Luxembourg for Finance.

It was particularly interesting to read the viewpoints of four Digital Identity thought leaders who spoke at the Fintech Stage Luxemourg conference:

A few excerpts:

David Birch, Director of Research at Consult Hyperion and author of “Identity is the new Money.”

To me, digital identity is the bridge between the world of virtual identities that only exist on-line and the things that exist in the real world.

You can think of the problem as being that there are two sides to that bridge: we need to connect the bridge to the real world, and that´s complicated and time-consuming and expensive. Nobody wants to have to manage personal data. Especially because you have new data protection laws coming, and the costs of having to manage this ‘toxic waste’ and deal with it when it is tangential to your business are not what you want to do.

Connecting the bridge to the virtual world, in contrast, is easy. We should have many virtual identities, one for each of our online relationships.

I like the concepts of Identity being a bridge (or set of bridges) between the virtual world of online identities and reality.

His comment about the difficulty of managing the “toxic” waste of personal data which is only tangential to real business is particularly relevant in the GDPR countdown to May 25, 2018.

Julian Ranger, Chairman and Founder of digi.me

We have always been multi-dimensional. The question is, are our financial services able to support that multi-dimensionality and work for me across all of those dimensions?”

If you consider identity not to be just identification of data, but all the things that I do, then it’s a holistic through-life process, and you should be using digital identity by engaging directly with me and looking at me across all aspects of my life.

I liked how Mr. Ranger described Digital Identity as a “holistic through-life process,” challenging financial services companies to embrace the inherent multi-dimensional reality of the customers they serve.

David Brear, Founder and CEO of 11:FS, a FinTech consultancy

When you look at digital identity there is no de facto listing globally. 

This is so critical to identity that if you don’t trust the system that the identities are being captured and contained within, it makes it tough for that system to be very useful within the realms of what you are trying to do. This is why people have started to look at irrefutable databases. Things like distributive ledgers and blockchain-like identity schemes are very interesting for this.

Yes, Digital Identity begs for a global “irrefutable database,” perhaps using “distributive ledgers and blockchain-like identity schemes.”  I believe this type of mechanism is essential to really solve the current conflict of interest nature of Identity providers.

Sam Maule, Director, Director, Senior Practice Lead, Digital & FInTech at NTT DATA Americas

I believe we overuse and overhype the term blockchain. I believe that distributive ledger technology does serve as an excellent tool, but in the future, we are going to have components of Artificial Intelligence that we haven’t looked at before, with which we will be able to fine-tune this concept of digital identity.

Startups and FinTech can streamline and simplify the process around identity, and I believe the banks themselves can secure it and make sure it’s compliant, and the two work hand in hand together.

I agree that “blockchain” is an overhyped term, but it is interesting that Mr. Maule turned to another over-hyped term, “Artificial Intelligence,” in the quest to fine tune and simplify the problems of Digital Identity.  I expect that we will see a number of technologies converge to meet the global requirements of Digital Identity.

In all, fascinating concepts:

  • Digital identity is the “bridge” between our many online virtual identities and our real-world selves.
  • Digital Identity must be a “holistic through-life process,” accommodating the inherent multi-dimensional aspect of our lives.
  • Technologies like blockchain and distributed ledgers will be essential to enable global, irrefutable databases for Digital Identity.
  • Blockchain alone won’t solve all the problems.  Leveraging other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence will be essential to meet real world Digital Identity demands.

I love these discussions about Identity.  We have a great future ahead.

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Blockchain – Enabling the Fourth Phase of Identity?

Identity
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 5, 2017
10:49 am

Blockchain

The most intriguing work in the Identity world today is the potential application of Blockchain/Distributed Ledger technology for user-focused Identity Management.

I am certainly not a blockchain expert, but I believe these concepts have the potential to solve several nagging problems that have been facing us for many years, including:

  1. Individual users can confidently leverage their own identities across multiples organizations, including employers, government agencies, online vendors, etc.
  2. Multiple organizations across public and private sectors could rely on digital identities just as confidently as these organizations currently relay on identification documents such as passports, drivers licenses, etc.
  3. The huge proliferation of multiple identity relationships that must be set up for individual users to access and use online resources could be drastically reduced.
  4. The overall digital infrastructure for managing identities could be significantly simplified. 
  5. The ability to secure digital identities could be significantly improved in an increasingly hostile online world.

We certainly aren’t there yet, but I am encouraged by work being done.  Some of the recent articles I have read on the subject include:

BlockChain TechnologiesThat Go Beyond Bitcoin.  Item 3 of 6 is “Digital Identity.”  

Blockchain technologies make tracking and managing digital identities both secure and efficient, resulting in seamless sign-on and reduced fraud.

The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity, blog post by Christopher Allen: 

I want to share a vision for how we can enhance the ability of digital identity to enable trust while preserving individual privacy. This vision is what I call “Self-Sovereign Identity”.

Christopher outlines four broad stages since the advent of the Internet:

  1. Centralized identity
  2. Federated identity
  3. User-centric identity
  4. Self-sovereign identity.

He then proposes “Ten Principles of Self-Sovereign Identity” that appear to provide a foundation upon which to construct standards and systems to build a real “Fourth Phase” identity system:

  1. Existence. Users must have an independent existence. 
  2. Control. Users must control their identities.
  3. Access. Users must have access to their own data.
  4. Transparency. Systems and algorithms must be transparent. 
  5. Persistence. Identities must be long-lived.
  6. Portability. Information and services about identity must be transportable.
  7. Interoperability. Identities should be as widely usable as possible.
  8. Consent. Users must agree to the use of their identity.
  9. Minimalization. Disclosure of claims must be minimized. 
  10. Protection. The rights of users must be protected.

The following two articles appear to draw heavily from the concepts presented by Christopher Allen.

The Journey to a Self-Sovereign Digital Identity Built on a Blockchain.  According to IBM’s Jai Singh Arun

Permissioned blockchain technology provides core capabilities that enable a trusted digital identity network to build and operate.

I agree that blockchain technology is essential to achieving the goals outlined by Christoper Allen.

A Self-Sovereign Identity Architecture. (PDF file) A topic paper from the ID2020 Design Workshop:

to identify what a self-sovereign architecture would look like for the Web as well as a number of technical requirements of such an architecture. This topic paper outlines that proposed architecture and its primary components and actors.

It is good to see that smart people are working together to explore how to transform these foundation principles into reality.

IEEE launches standards program focused on blockchain and identity

Technical organization and standards leader, IEEE, is launching a new program to create standards around consumer and patient data protection, specifically as it relates to blockchain and identity. Called, Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency, the initiative will bring together technology innovators, policy experts and academic researchers to address the topic.

Standards will be necessary to make blockchain – based identity systems pervasive in the world.

Blockchain-based Identity meets the Sovrin Foundation. According to Phil Windley, Chair of the non-profit Sovrin Foundation:

Sovrin is building a scalable, privacy-protected, auditable (based on time-stamped data written to the distributed ledger) ecosytem empowering individuals to manage their identities, support granular selective disclosure and provide organizations with trusted connections to individuals. 

I am impressed with the work the Sovrin Foundation is doing.  The fact that an independent, non-profit organization has been established to be the independent overseer of a blockchain-based identity service seems to provide a solution to the inevitable conflicts of interest that exist if organizations like banks, credit bureaus, credit card issuers or the government provide identity services.

I am working to better understand the concepts and challenges in this exciting area.  It is going to be a fun ride.

 

 

 

 

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