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Self-Sovereign Identity: The key to digital independence

Self-sovereign identity (SSI), is built on the premise that the ownership of personal information should be restored to the individual, with whom it truly belongs.

It starts with the storage of data on hardware that users physically own, rather than on centralised databases. It involves a proven system of consent where the user is exclusively authorised to share data. They must be able to control what businesses and other internet users can discover about them.

The benefits of SSI may seem unclear and confusing when discussed in terms of self-determination and freedom from surveillance. But storing personal information in a way where users and customers manage its movement can have unique implications in everyday life. Let’s find out how.

A seamless identity:

Forms — online or physical, are a thorny, time-consuming means of data collection. In contrast, self-sovereign identity apps automatically send your information to businesses when you sanction it. Your digital experiences will never be the same again.

You can avoid endless queues and tedious check-in processes at hotel receptions and gain access to your room within seconds, simply by scanning a QR Code.

Similarly, when sending identity documents to a new employer, there will be no need to fill out lengthy forms, scan your passport, visa and national ID card. You’ll be able to send these without any typing at all; imagine a frictionless digital experience.

From an organisational perspective, it will be a positive shift. 58% of businesses believe that their employee onboarding processes focus on paperwork and admin far too much. Hotel staff, immersed in repetitive data entry, are unable to deliver the guest experiences they’re meant to. Research found that 65% of organisations don’t have the resources to analyse or even categorise all the data they store. If a business requires excessive quantities of data, then it should be for the purpose of providing unique and personalised experiences.

As for you, the user, self-sovereign identity allows you to go global. Your personal app will be compatible with the requirements of multiple governments. You can carry your identity anywhere, travel the web and the world with peace of mind and a new level of autonomy.

A secure identity:

The information gathered from online forms is typically transferred onto another platform, a centralised database. Honeypots of personal data are then created, which invite interest from hackers and data companies. According to Javelin Security, 16.7 million people had their identities stolen in 2017, and that’s just in the United States.

The consequences of identity theft are dire. Hackers can exploit existing credit cards, create new accounts, and are well-equipped to commit tax fraud under false identities. SSI provides a superior level of security and protection. By storing personal data on the user’s phone, backed up in distributed databases, the amount of data available to hackers is limited. SSI also enables businesses to capture exactly the type of data they need, rather than everything — making it impossible for hackers to access a database without authorisation.

A recent survey shows that if the same password is applied across multiple accounts, or when two-factor authentication is intentionally avoided, consumers become vulnerable to data breach. Self-sovereign identity eliminates these outdated security measures. No more need for hard-to-remember and easy-to-hack passwords. Verification will instead take place by a set of attributes within the user’s self-sovereign app and authentication will be multi-factor by default. Customer-friendly security safeguards people from attack, without compromising on their online independence.

A dynamic identity:

Physical identification is static. When you hand your ID or passport over to a hotel receptionist, the information on that document is supplied in its entirety. Whether all that data is required, is arguable. When an embassy or business asks for a scanned copy of your passport via email or a sign-up form, they may hold on to it for a lot longer than necessary. Your personal identity is made available for extended periods, exposed to abuse and theft. These risks are amplified in the online context.

Self-sovereign identity is different. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can be built into an app to extract isolated readable pieces of text from identity documents. You don’t have to tell every bouncer or banker your middle name and where you were born. If they need a date of birth, they will just get a date of birth. Attributes can be split up and mixed; put together in multiple ways. Your identification will open up more gateways, as more and more parties begin to trust that you are who you say you are. Customer autonomy and satisfaction will improve.

It gets better. In many situations, a business just needs confirmation of eligibility for a service, and not the background information that proves it. Zero knowledge technology does just that. If you’re looking to buy a student’s ticket for an event, zero knowledge proofs will validate your student status for the organisers. The business collects just the data they need while you get to enjoy your digital independence.

Convenience, improved security and privacy, and flexibility in identity applications can increase the efficiency of the internet, socially and commercially. As a user, you will have less to worry about when sharing your personal information online. Your data gets harder to seize, and the web becomes an easier, more meaningful place to navigate.

Sphere Identity streamlines the customer onboarding process in a safe and compliant way while also giving individuals their privacy back.