Debating decentralised / Self-sovereign identity

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We are the custodians of our own identity in the real-world, so why not in the digital world? When passwords are easily forgotten and backing up of data is not a habit, the question is whether it is in our best interests to be in control and do we really want to. These issues were debated at the latest Decentralised Identity EEMA Fireside Briefing, which took place at Atos in London on 24th October. The expert panel was chaired by EEMA’s Jon Shamah and included John Erik Setsaas of Signicat, Evgeny Chereshnev from Biolink Tech and David Alexander of Mydex.

  L-R: John Erik Setsaas, Evgeny Chereshnev and David Alexander

“If I am not in control it is dangerous. I don’t know what it is going to be used for,” commented Evgeny. He added: “Centralisation is vulnerable. We need to embrace everything that is not centralised.” David put the case for a shift away from the organisation-centric toward trust and identity that exists today, in favour of a citizen-centric approach, to encourage adoption of a more decentralisation. He argued that: “If I am in charge of my identity it removes friction, effort, risk and cost. It promotes trust innovation and resilience, increasing quality, improving productivity, revenue and outcomes.”

John-Erik offered a word of caution: “We all want someone to call when we have a problem.  If we go full self-sovereign identity it is game over.” Making the point that if data is held in a citizens own ‘data store’ and they are the only one with the key, if it is ‘lost’ they what happens next? He put forward the idea of trusted identity custodians that people can elect to manage their identity ‘data store’ on their behalf, but the key is held by a separate key custodian of the persons choosing.

The Chair of EEMA, Jon Shamah, suggested that one of the big challenges facing any move to a decentralised identity model would be how to move the population towards it. To which David made the observation that if  it made their lives easier they would naturally gravitate toward it, citing the huge shift from post to email.

What is certain is the debate for and against decentralised identity will rage on and the EEMA Identity Blog will be at the forefront providing the platform for discussion and progress. Coming soon will be a post from David Alexander in which he will elaborate on some of the key points he raised during the debate.

Please do comment and share you views. Should we decentralise identity and if so how?

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