Over the last two decades, our lives have become increasingly digital. Nearly everything is done online today – shopping for airline tickets, looking for houses, and even watching movies. Despite this digital integration of nearly every aspect of our life, there has not yet been a universal solution for the verification of a person’s digital identity.
This leaves people in a position where they have to enter repetitive information regarding driver’s licenses and passports whenever they complete an identity-centered task like buying an airline ticket. When we apply to open a bank or investment account we often need to submit photos of ourselves and a government-issued ID to verify our identity. These photographs then need to be verified by a third party before we can begin to use the service, a process that can take several days.
These are only a few situations where a universal digital identity would enhance our online experience, but it still begs the question: how can a digital identity be created on the blockchain? Rooted in key management and identity, Accumulate is a universal protocol that interoperates across various Web 2 and Web 3 platforms– from Layer 1 blockchains to enterprise tech stacks, to websites, to corporations. Accumulate is a potential decentralized solution for government-based digital identity.
How Digital IDs Would Enhance vs Traditional IDs
Digital Identities would allow a person to store key information about themselves virtually. For instance, a Digital ID could speed up checkout processes by automatically providing information such as your name and address with the e-commerce site. This is common online with solutions like Google Autofill but has yet to be implemented in brick and mortar stores
The benefits of authenticated Digital IDs go far beyond mere identification. A robust Digital ID could contain both credentialed data – such as a person’s vaccination status, authenticated college degrees, deep-sea scuba certification- as well as the security features that would grant full ownership and disclosure of this data to the owner of the ID. Thus, someone could choose to share just their certified identity, college education, and employment history with a potential employer – and avoid filling out all that repetitive application information. For example, a person could choose to share only their vaccination status and scuba certification with the operator of a diving boat. This would allow that person to get in the water without carrying all those paper certifications around.
A traditional ID only proves that you are who you say you are – and perhaps that you are certified to drive or cross over borders. These types of Identity were not designed for the digital world… and it shows. Aside from verification, a card ID provides very limited advantages.
Traditional IDs create the opportunity for false certifications. Criminals can create fake IDs and use them to lease homes, do business, and cross over borders when they are on the run. With a digital ID that is provided by an enterprise or government, there would be nearly zero opportunities for false certifications. Digital IDs would all need to be issued through a certified and trusted technology platform with integrations into other applications. It would not be possible to create a fake identity on a secure platform.
Digital IDs Could Enhance Private Data
Currently, people have no control over who utilizes their private data online. With a certified digital ID, power over this information would be firmly in the hands of the person who owns it. The owner of a digital ID would be able to grant and revoke the security privileges of parties accessing information.
Blockchain technology like what is being built on Accumulate is perfect for selective-based sharing of private data we spoke about in a previous blog post. Beyond offering user control, other ways that Accumulate can potentially enhance private data include making data more:
Local and state governments would better be able to provide services to their people by consolidating a person’s data. Right now, data is mostly siloed in data centers without much interoperably or coordination between service providers.
For instance, if a person’s digital ID indicated they were receiving unemployment benefits and had a nursing certification, a blockchain-based digital ID system could be automatically created to alert them to new nursing positions in their area. It’s also possible for an automatic application to the position if the correct data was stored in an identity. If someone wanted to opt-out of such a system, they would only need to change the permissions of their Identity.
It would also be useful to provide new services and tax breaks to people who may be unaware of new legislation passed. If a person’s digital ID indicated they were receiving disability, and a state passed a new program to provide meals to disabled citizens, normally a person would need to wade through bureaucracy to receive these services. With a digital ID, a person could be notified they qualify for such a benefit – or even be automatically opted into a meal program if they have configured their Identity correctly.
Government Technology And Digital Identities
Governments are also looking towards blockchain-based digital IDs with excitement because they are starting to see the potential it can help with. Organizations such as Sphereon have made great strides within this field and will help usher in the next generation of GovTech solutions.
Estonia has one of the most developed digital IDs in the world (PricewaterhouseCoopers). Every one of its citizens has a state-issued digital ID. The Estonian digital ID goes far beyond simply being a legal photo ID. It offers digital access to all of Estonia’s e-services. This is not only in practice, but a blockchain-based digital ID has been added to Estonia’s legislation that basically states that a qualified electronic signature is equivalent to a stamp, seal, or hand-written signature. This takes blockchain-based credentialing and IDs to the next level. As they say, if you want to immortalize a business, have the government create legislation around it.
Estonia isn’t the only country making use of blockchain-based IDs:
- The United Kingdom: The United Kingdom has been exploring ways blockchain-based digital IDs can prevent fraud.
- Gibraltar: Gibraltar is also on the list seeking to improve its system by storing credentials and IDs on a decentralized ledger (Forbes).
Blockchain: The Natural Home for Digital IDs
One of the best technologies for digital ID is blockchain. Blockchains create a distributed ledger of information that cannot be changed once it has been approved and added to the chain – meaning that a person’s data could not be altered by a malicious attacker. The entire blockchain is accessible to anyone who has a node where the blockchain is stored, however, all the data on the chain is encrypted, and it can only be accessed if a user has the proper key. This means that many different agencies and enterprises could use the same blockchain for digital verification, without any personal data on that chain being compromised.
When considering which blockchain to use for a digital ID ecosystem, Accumulate offers several attractive features that make it user-friendly for implementing a large-scale digital ID.
Why Acculumate’s Blockchain Is The Best Solution For Digital ID
Accumulate’s identity-first blockchain is based around Accumulate Digital Identifiers (ADIs), which are human-readable identities that are easy to understand and use. For instance, if John Smith had an ADI it would be listed as Acc://JohnSmith. From this root ADI, he could easily manage all of his data and outside organizations could easily navigate the information he has granted to them. If someone wanted to view John Smith’s certifications, they would just need to navigate to Acc://JohnSmith/i/Certifications. Once those, people that are selected to view the privileged information could see what verified certifications Smith had earned throughout his life.
Other blockchains addresses are not human readable, and navigating to a person’s information would always need to be done programmatically.
Accumulate Hierarchical Keys
Accumulate also offers hierarchical security keys, which allow a user to provide differing levels of security permissions for their data. For instance, they could have one key which unlocks only their scuba diving certification and another key that unlocks all of their certifications. This hierarchical security offering allows a person to configure highly complex security permissions and give them total ownership of their data. If one of these keys is compromised or lost, Accumulate retires the bad key and automatically issues a new one. Most blockchains use non-hierarchical keys and don’t support this kind of key rotation. One key will unlock all of a user’s data, and if it is compromised there is no way to reset it.
With lightning-fast low-cost transactions, Accumulate can make supporting a digital ID ecosystem cheaper for all parties – and the ability to create Smart Contracts off-chain. This will allow a programmer who is not familiar with blockchain coding languages to set up a system like the one described above, which would automatically opt-in a disabled person to a meal delivery system if their state passed such legislation.
It is not a matter of if we will adopt a universal digital ID, it is a matter of when – and what technology would power it. The Accumulate blockchain is a forerunner as a decentralized digital ID solution.