The Cambridge Analytica Scandal, outrage over WhatsApp’s privacy conditions, and concerns over TikTok’s ability to harvest biodata are just a handful of things that have led to increasing concern amongst consumers and governments around the usage of personal data. This has facilitated the rise of a movement for self-sovereign identity, which aims to give citizens back control of their personal data. While this is a consumer-driven issue, there are huge benefits for companies and governments to embrace this shift in attitude, using it as an opportunity not only to listen to citizens and consumers but to also make their own processes more agile and secure.

How self-sovereign identity works

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) allows users to create and control their own digital identities, both across different entities online and across borders. Blockchain technology is at the heart of ensuring these solutions run efficiently. Blockchain-based identity-as-a-service solutions work on the basis of decentralised identities, embedded encryption, and identity management, handing consumers back the power over their own digital identities. This also makes these identities less invasive for service providers to manage, as users can verify their identity without the providers needing to collect or store personal data.

Although appearing complex, the whole process is extremely user-friendly, meaning consumers do not need any particular blockchain knowledge – the process is more like having a bank PIN code and account number, reflected in the private key and public key respectively. In practice, this would look like an identity that users could login to and use across multiple platforms and websites, and which could be controlled by users via an app on their phone. This is similar to a Google login, but the underlying blockchain technology means that identities are entirely owned and controlled by the citizen rather than a third-party, and are cryptographically secured. The decentralised identifier (DID) is key for this. This is a pseudo-anonymous identifier that is secured by a private key. Having this private key is what gives the user control over their digital identity.

DIDs are secured in cryptography through the issuance of the private key, which is known only to the owner. Public keys also exist, and these are provided to the service provider, in order to complete a transaction or interaction. Within a transaction, the public key verifies that a holder of the private key has sent the message. This message is encrypted, so only the private key holder can decrypt the message.

How end-users and organisations can benefit

The benefits of self-sovereign identities for users are huge. Being able to control your own identity means there is no need to rely on centralised authorities, which means that there are no worries about who is seeing your data, strengthening data privacy. The lack of centralised authorities also means that data is more secure from outside parties, reducing the risk of malicious attacks, data leaks, and fraud.

There are already a number of real-world applications of Self-Sovereign Identity frameworks. For instance, the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) is building a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), with the aim to leverage blockchain for the creation of cross-border services for public administrations and their ecosystems. EBSI will use SSI to allow citizens to create blockchain-based digital identities, as well as digital wallets in which they can store digital versions of their qualifications, for instance. They can then use these qualifications to apply for jobs and prove their identity, without having to hand control of their data over. These identities would be stored on apps that users could access on their personal devices. Outside of EBSI, blockchain for digital identity is also being used in India, where the India Stack project is aiming to equip every Indian citizen with their own unique digital identifier, and countries like Canada and Australia are also examining SSI.

For public administrators, or for private entities, identity-as-a-service and blockchain identity management means that liability in the event of a hack is mitigated. Data breaches can be incredibly costly; in 2020, the average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million, so companies could save massively by decentralising user information, making hacks less likely. Identity-as-a-service also has the benefit of removing data silos, especially in government entities, making processes more efficient for both workers and users. For citizens, identity-as-a-service means that they can access government services with more ease and efficiency, while simultaneously ensuring that their data is safe.

Protokol’s enterprise solutions

At Protokol, we’ve developed an SSI framework that enables the creation of digital wallets and digital identities, allowing users to establish their own blockchain-based digital identities, which they can own and utilise however they wish.

To help users create and manage their own identities, we offer identity-as-a-service solutions. These solutions are fully customisable, and can be plugged into existing systems.

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Self-sovereign identity can be used on a large scale, as can be seen from EBSI. SSI-based digital identities and wallets can be used to help ease of movement for European citizens whilst simultaneously keeping data secure. Protokol creates solutions that could allow citizens to manage their identity credentials across borders on their own devices, with wallets that comply with the eIDAS regulatory framework. This has huge benefits. By easing movement for European citizens, this makes the mobility of students, young professionals and entrepreneurs in Europe easier, enabling more market opportunities for EU citizens.

SSI and identity-as-a-service solutions will continue to rise in prominence in the next few years and can provide great benefits for public and private organisations. To discover how an identity-as-a-service solution could help both public administrations and private organisations cut costs, add revenue, and streamline operations, take a look at Protokol’s digital advisory and blockchain services, or book a consultation with our blockchain experts using the button below.

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