What Is Self-Sovereign Identity?

February 4, 2022

Nowadays, we are reliant on digital services for many aspects of our daily lives, from online shopping to financial services in so-called Web 2.0. We use several, if not hundreds, of accounts to interact with different centralized web platforms such as social media or email services. The problem is that when we lose access to our accounts, we lose our digital identities as the sites can’t identify who we are anymore. This means we don't actually own our identities and data. There is something wrong with this. We need to take back ownership of our data and digital identity, and self-sovereign identities can make that happen, paving the way for us to move into Web 3.0.

Self-sovereign identity refers to an approach that gives individuals control of their digital identities.

So what exactly is a self-sovereign identity? Self-sovereign identity refers to an approach that gives individuals control of their digital identities. To better understand this concept, let's look at two models:

Web 2.0 - The Centralized Model:

Our email accounts, website accounts, and social media accounts currently allow digital services to identify us online. We either create an account for each platform, or we use a single sign-on provided by a service provider such as Facebook or Google. Regardless of which method we use, our data is stored centrally by the account provider. This model has created some serious problems:

  • Management difficulties: We struggle to manage numerous accounts to access different digital platforms. Also, these platforms can decide unilaterally to close our account, or to manage it on our behalf.
  • Security and dependency risk: Since most of our accounts are tied to our email addresses, if our email access is compromised, the hacker can easily take over other accounts using that email by changing the password through the ''Forgot my password'' method. For example, the hacker could pretend to be the digital you and scam your family and friends on Facebook.
  • The vulnerability of privacy: If the services we use are hacked, our data is likely to be leaked because it is stored centrally. According to The Identity Theft Research Center, nearly 281.5 million people have been affected by some sort of data breach by October 2021. 
  • Lack of data autonomy: We have no control over how our data is used or shared with other platforms. Worse, this data is monetized on our behalf.

Web 3.0 - The Decentralized Model:

To overcome all problems mentioned above with the centralized identity model, we then need to introduce the decentralized identity model, which enables self-sovereign identity. The relationship between an individual and a counterpart (such as an individual, an organization, or an IoT) is peer-to-peer. It no longer relies on a centralized entity, but utilizes decentralized networks, namely blockchain technology. Some benefits of this method:

  • Resilient network: Blockchain networks never go down, whereas centralized networks run by companies, like Facebook’s did a few months ago, and people couldn't log in to the sites or any of its products.
  • Verifiable credentials: Data and information are issued as credentials by trusted parties of the identity owner’s choice, such as governments and banks. If access is granted, other peers can verify the credentials onchain. 
  • Establishing trust: Immutability is the nature of blockchain, which ensures the authenticity of the verifiable credentials. For example, a peer can verify if the diploma is issued by the university through onchain proofs. 
  • Control over data: The owner of self-sovereign identity can decide when to share credentials, as well as which credentials to share. 

Self-sovereign identity is a user-centric digital identity where we as users have full control over our online identities, but it is not only just for individuals, but also for organizations and even for things (IoT) or programs. We believe that in the short future, we will all use self-sovereign identity to interact with each other peer-to-peer in the digital world, rather than relying on other parties' account-based digital identities. 

Interested in obtaining a Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI)? Leave your email in the newsletter subscribe form, and we will inform you when you can create one by yourself.

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