Test 29 November, 2017

Blockchain: the future of digital identities

As we move to a digital world, it becomes imperative for institutions and governments to explore the use of digital identities to bestow both rights and privacy to their citizens.

Identity management (IDM) has been and remains at the forefront of the agenda for many governments and non-governmental organisations. The United Nation’s ID2020initiative, set up in 2014, is a clear sign of this. It brought together many of the world’s technology and IDM experts to try and provide a form of identity to the 1 billion people who are unable to prove who they are. It has been imperative to take action as it is well documented that those with access to a form of identity are better protected and able to access essential services than those who do not.

The UK will also be facing an IDM challenge on its own soil as it has recently introduced a new regulation to cut down on ‘healthcare tourism’ in the NHS. Individuals will have to provide documents that demonstrate their right to access services such as a proof of residence.  Being able to produce such documents may be difficult for some as many people live in shared accommodation and may not have utility bills in their name.

This new regulatory change is causing unrest and concerns in the medical community. Several doctors and practitioners including Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of NHS England from 2011 to 2014, have expressed their deep concerns with this new practice. Some have suggested that this could lead to migrants and others in desperate need of medical care, such as pregnant women, not presenting themselves to hospitals for fear of deportation. There are also concerns that this could lead to racial profiling.

We are bombarded, almost daily, by news of breaches of personal data. In light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into effect in 2018, privacy issues will need to be addressed. Implementing this regulation will require clarification over processes about personal data handling, data collection, storage and destruction (i.e. the right to be forgotten).

This raises the question around the ease of access to products and services, and the need for an easy to use and reliable identity that will provide frictionless access to required services i.e. the need for a digital identity. With the near ubiquity of cheap mobile phones and increased resiliency in the blockchain technology, it is now becoming possible to distribute and manage digital identities for the masses at scale.

At Decentralized ID (DID) we are bridging this gap by making it possible to securely issue an ID card, a license, a passport or a visa using the current communication channels on a Blockchain. The core purpose is to help individuals take back control of their identity and assure them access to services without having to be subject to prejudice nor potential loss of privacy. The system enables individuals to provide proofs of their legal status and be assured that their data is not subject to misuse.