Maintaining digital privacy is increasingly challenging in the modern world where often you and your data are the product on so-called free internet services. In our lifetime we have seen private and public surveillance increase under the guise of terrorist surveillance, public safety, and most recently, a global pandemic. Covid-19 has been a justification for different governments to increase mass surveillance on their citizens through the use of drones and CCTV cameras, while other nations have used credit card transactions to keep tabs on their people. But how exactly are governments using this data and keeping it secure? One thing we can learn from history is that supposedly ‘short-term heightened surveillance’ is often never rolled back.
But there are alternatives. For instance, David19 is a project in partnership with IOVlabs that collects data on Covid-19 without compromising contributors’ data. This is absolutely crucial in ensuring you have control over your personal information and can keep it secure. In other words, it will ensure your Self Sovereign Identity remains intact.
The main intention of Self Sovereign Identity is to empower people with tools to control their digital interactions and to recover privacy in digital environments. Our data, interactions, and reputation should not be trapped in silos such as Amazon's and Uber's databases, and it should not be shared with unauthorized parties as Facebook is guilty of. The Self Sovereign Identity concept is about decentralizing these silos to make the system human-centric: you are the one who can control your data, moving it between services as you see fit. This can avoid a significant number of data leaks and the sale of personal data, or at the very least, make it a lot less easy and probable than it currently is.
Self Sovereign Identity is a solution for the whole digital world, not just cryptocurrency users. This decentralized identity layer gives people the ability to show verifiable claims about themselves without losing their privacy; nowadays, when you accept the terms and conditions of most internet services you are essentially resigning your right to privacy. Right now, your data is controlled by others. Self Sovereign Identity is here to change that.
In the past, many people and companies have tried to build this identity layer with good intentions but it has proved to be very difficult to do this while also avoiding censorship and privacy issues as they have always relied on central authorities that can withhold permission or become, unintentionally, a single point of failure. That’s where blockchain technology comes in. In terms of Self Sovereign Identities, blockchain is only 5-10% of the technology behind the model but it is crucial because it removes the need for a central authority, allowing a permissionless system whilst maintaining trust. Blockchain is the key missing link from previous identity layers, improving on and setting a new standard for digital identity layers.
RIF Identity is the identity and reputation layer for RIF services and a crucial component for decentralized sharing economies and social networks. It allows people to share information about them to other people or services if and when they choose to. In RIF Identity, this information will be verifiable and reliable, compatible with W3C’s Verifiable Credentials and Decentralized Identifiers standards.
Live since 2018, RIF Name Service (RNS) solves one of the most pervasive issues for cryptocurrency users, creating human-readable domains. Instead of using multiple complicated blockchain addresses made up of long chains of letters, numbers, and characters that are difficult to remember and error-prone, you can simply use one domain to associate with these addresses. This is much easier than using blockchain addresses and is a crucial step in fostering more rapid adoption of cryptocurrency by simplifying the process and making it more user friendly for a non-technical audience.
RNS will also help identify service providers and consumers in decentralized marketplaces, as well as storage and communication addresses. dApp developers can integrate RNS as reliable decentralized identity authentication.
RIF Identity goes further than RNS though, building all of the tools needed to regain control over your own digital identity and reputation. The service champions blockchain interoperability at every step, working closely with similar projects including Ethereum-focused uPort.
One of the biggest challenges in the mass-adoption of such solutions is getting people to understand what Self Sovereign Identity really means and why it is so necessary. One of the best ways to tackle this is with real-world use cases, such as those that RIF is supporting with its products.
For example, the ONG Bitcoin Argentina has an active project called DIDI, Digital Identity for Inclusion, in partnership with IOVlabs among others. Together, we are developing a Self Sovereign Identity product working with people from vulnerable neighborhoods that don’t have access to bank accounts nor traditional formal institutions. They are starting to build their reputation from their daily informal financial (and non-financial) interactions using verifiable credentials on this decentralized digital identity layer. The solution also incorporates another RIF service, the decentralized, censorship-resistant RIF Storage.
This is a particularly interesting use case where we can see how exactly the technology can include people in the financial system and let them have access to better services because of the verifiable credentials and reputation they are building. It can demonstrate how useful Self Sovereign Identity is, in this case particularly for the unbanked, and help build awareness and understanding.
The number one Spanish speaking social media Taringa! will soon be integrating RIF Identity to it’s 30 million users. This will happen through a concept for developers that allows them to have a simple library to add to their apps and websites and add a signup/login popup. They will then be able to choose their cryptocurrency wallet of preference to create an account. The advantage of the Single Sign-On concept is that the users will be able to interface with it on different platforms with exactly the same user experience. For developers, it will also simplify the onboarding process for their users.
Mass adoption of Self Sovereign Identity solutions will take time, especially considering that the first use cases are only now being developed and tested. If the first SSI projects deliver what they promise, I believe we will see real tangible growth of this tech in the next couple of years. If more people wake up to the unjust nature of today’s mass surveillance and data breaches from corporations, adoption may happen even quicker. Self Sovereign Identity is needed now more than ever in an economy increasingly governed by big tech with corporates that care little for your personal privacy and governments utilizing heightened mass surveillance.
We truly believe Self Sovereign Identity is a crucial component of the decentralized internet and RIF Identity is committed to putting it in the hands of the developers and, most importantly, the people.