Free Talking - Episode 5

20 October, 2021, by Natasha Free

Who Owns Your Digital Identity?

Listen in to hear Natasha Free answer the question: "Who Owns Your Digital Identity?"


Natasha: How many online identities do you think you have? Think about that for a minute. I am not just talking about your membership of social media sites like LinkedIn or Instagram but all of the online accounts you have for everything you’ve every bought or watched or downloaded for free online.

Natasha: A quick scan of my password vault shows I have over 100 active accounts currently and that’s only the personal ones. I also have accounts that I administer for my children and for elderly parents where I have to share their personal data.

Natasha: How many times have you shared your information or plugged in the same core details or provided information that you didn’t really want to share? Or given over sensitive documents online?

Natasha: I also find myself wondering how the information is held, where it’s held, how is it used? Is the holder selling information to third parties without my permission?

Natasha: And now, in certain circumstances, I need to provide proof of my vaccination status – which involved creating yet another account and downloading a pdf of all things – which could easily be photo-shopped if one were so inclined.

Natasha: I am very excited about the concept Self Sovereign Identity.

Natasha: Self-Sovereign Identity is a concept whereby YOU own and control YOUR identity and all the other bits of information you may be required to share and you can share only the bits you want to share with whom you want to share them! That data also stays with you, the owner, you own it and you can update and withdraw that information at any time.

Natasha: How does this work? Well, the only transaction is the assertion from you that you are who you say you are and the information you are giving is correct. Because we are doing this digitally, the receiver cannot see, for example, that your passport photo matches the person in front of them. Therefore, this kind of transaction relies on being able to verify the assertion that I am Natasha Free, and I was born on this date and this is my photograph in the passport I am showing you.

Natasha: Let’s say I want to re-mortgage, and I’ve decided on a different lender who has no data about me. I need to provide my identity to that lender. But they don’t have an office near me, and I don’t want to send, and they won’t accept, sensitive information via email.

Natasha: With Self Sovereign Identity providers, I can provide information safely and effectively by means of an encrypted ‘digital wallet’.

Natasha: I can include the information I want to share, and the receiver can then verify the contents of the wallet with the information provider. In the case of my passport - that is whichever government department issues it. So, I assert that these identity credentials are correct and via Self Sovereign Identity mechanisms, the receiver can verify that that information is correct. They don't hold any of the information, there is no transmission of sensitive information over the internet that could be intercepted.

Natasha: That information remains in my wallet and does not get transferred to the lender or stored by them (risking potential misuse, data loss, hacks, etc.). I can also keep and use that information again and again without having to make new copies/new trips etc.

Natasha: Information is encrypted and a number of these services are powered by blockchain technology meaning that they are tamper-proof so the sender and the receiver have great confidence that the information is correct and it hasn't been changed in any way.

Natasha: Not only is it better for consumers – more control, more secure, prevent misuse but it’s good for business – decreasing the cost of administration of all this user information and increases their ability to really Know Your Customer – which is the subject of course to stiff regulation for example in the banking sector. So anything that helps you to verify that your customer is who they say they are, is great. And if that involves not having to deal in lots of bits of paper or electronic data that you have to regulate constantly, it's brilliant.

Natasha: So, the future of our digital identities is Self-Sovereign Identity. You can make simple, bespoke packages of verified information to share with service providers be that your grocery delivery service, your insurer, your mortgage lender, or your child's school.

Natasha: Watch out for Self Sovereign Identity. It's the future!

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