June’s brown bag lunch (“BBL”) event focused on Blockchain in Digital Identity and was led by outside authorities on the sector, including Dazza Greenwood and Christine Ross, as well as Center Members.
- Christine Ferrusi Ross, HfS Research
- David Araujo, DCU
- Dazza Greenwood, CIVICS.com
- Havell Rodrigues, Adjoint
- Jason Morton, Beetle Systems
A Member’s Perspective:
One of the great things about being in a FinTech Incubator is the constant flow of ideas from leaders in the field. This comes from peer conversations from residents, but also from their guests and the occasional organized discussion. Recently we have the chance to convene over a brown bag lunch to discuss the potential for blockchain in digital identity management (you know, typical office lunch chit chat).
I’m a fan of blockchain, but not pre-sold on its universal application to solve any and all problems. As a less partial observer, I tried to summarize a few notes on why (or why not) digital identity might be an interesting application. These notes are meant to be the start of a conversation, rather than an authoritative or exhaustive list.
The conversation included, however, the summary below does not necessarily reflect their (or my) personal views.
How might blockchain be useful for digital identity management?
Unique Identifier: Many current identity systems rely on unique identifiers such as the number on a passport, driver’s license or social security card. A blockchain structure could provide a globally unique identifier that could be used across any system.
Verified Attributes: A distributed identity ledger could include aspects of personal credit such as income, outstanding debts, payment history etc. all in a secure authenticated structure, that could be externally queried without necessarily sharing the actual data (ex. Is salary > 90,000?). This non-specific queuing could also prevent loan or admissions officers from making decisions based on protected classes including religion, gender sexual orientation.
Distributed Authority: An individual corporation or government could implement the blockchain identity framework, however, it could also be validated by peers through a web of previous transactions. Perhaps each peer-to-peer transaction could build a form of credit history. If the blockchain records previously successful transactions, or highly-rated exchanges then new transaction counterparts can “trust” that this entity will fulfill their obligations. This means that there does not need to be a centralized authority to validate identity.
Inherent (Access) Rights: A blockchain identifier could be used as a user authorization token (in the place of usernames and passwords) that could be verified by several different systems and provide appropriate access. Similarly, it could tie together disparate accounts with the same organization like a bank.
Inherent (Human) Rights: The blockchain could also encode rights based on the type of “entity” being identified. A human vs. a dog have different legal rights and can sue or be sued in different ways. This encoding of rights can form the basis for smart contracts. Who said identity had to be reserved for only humans?
Why might blockchain be a bad idea for digital identity management?
Centralization: Does putting ALL of my information in one place make it inherently less secure?
Freedom to be forgotten: Does the security of the blockchain mean that my past baggage follows me around forever?
“Papers please”: Does the idea of a national registry that includes every aspect of my personal history sound dystopian? Perhaps there are good reasons to start down this road, but is there a risk that a totalitarian state takes advantage of this identity record in the future?
The Brown Bag Lunch Series
The DCU FinTech Innovation Center offers cohort members a monthly BBL event during which startup Members, industry experts and community members of the DCU community share insights on a given topic.
Do you have an interesting FinTech topic worth discussing or are you a knowledge expert that would like to co-lead a Brown Bag Lunch? Click here and let us know.