Got ID? New Projects Explore Blockchain Identity Systems

Governments and private companies think that blockchain identity systems could empower citizens to take control of personal data.
The rapid onset of technological advancement is not evenly spread. Society is increasingly becoming digitally literate and uses emerging technology for work, to communicate and pay for things in ways unimaginable just 15 years ago. So, why are methods of governance largely unchanged since the invention of liberal democracy hundreds of years ago? Although many aspects of government remain entrenched in the past, one area is being brought into the 21st century: identity. With fears regarding third-party data abuse, citizens are more concerned than ever about how this affects their lives and their sovereignty. A number of innovative government departments have sensed these fears and are trialling blockchain solutions to better protect and empower their citizens. As it stands, most personal data created runs through the hands of governments and tech giants such as Facebook and Google. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica private data scandal, people are becoming more aware of the value of data and how it shapes the world. By virtue of lives being increasingly lived online, data is generated by things like medical records, browser history and property records. This information can be used to make decisions about individuals with far-reaching consequences, such as whether or not a defendant appearing in court is likely to commit another crime, or whether someone qualifies for a mortgage or health insurance. In the same way, missing or incomplete data can prevent people from accessing their pension or other financial services. The infrastructure for defending all this valuable personal data is not fit to defend itself against threats from malicious actors, as Alastair Johnson, CEO of the e-commerce payments and ID platform Nuggets, told Cointelegraph: “For years, the digital space has been a playground for malicious actors to exploit and abuse user data on platforms in finance through to social media. From incompetence to sophisticated attacks, it has become clear that the attack surfaces are broad, fundamentally insecure and utterly unprepared for an exodus into a digital paradigm. No entity is impervious — giants like Equifax, Aadhar and Facebook have all proven themselves to be corruptible, with terrifying consequences.”The use of blockchain in data has a simple objective: to place data back in the hands of those who create it. Decentralization and encryption play a central role in securing personal data on blockchains. By storing personal data on encrypted, decentralized networks, users are able to grant limited access to third parties using keys, much like sending cryptocurrency. Johnson said that by placing users at the forefront of the process, blockchain ID systems can both empower individuals and cut costs for governmental bodies: “A blockchain ID system, conversely, adopts a user-centric approach, eliminating central points of failure by empowering individuals with self-sovereign possession over their own data. A blockchain ID system would not require government bodies to store or share personal information in order for individuals to access services.”Phillip Shoemaker, executive director of Identity.com, spoke

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