Transforming the World of Digital Identity
March 22, 2017

From getting a driver’s license to setting up a new wireless account, today trying to get things done online, in person and on the phone takes far too long. In order to provide you with a service, companies need to collect so much information about you just to prove that you are who you say you are. It’s a process that can take far too long, which means you need to wait to access the services you want right now.

At a time when you can send important contracts (or goofy gifs) to a contact half way around the world in seconds, why are we stuck with identity verification processes that take so long?

SecureKey and IBM recently announced we’ll be working together to address this very issue. SecureKey and IBM are enabling the creation of a digital identity and attribute sharing network, which allows users to absolutely control who has access to their digital information, and how much, when and where that information is shared. This digital ecosystem puts users back in the middle, giving them all of the power with none of the digital risk.

Once launched, you will be able to opt-in to the new service using a mobile app, giving you full control of what identifying information you share with companies of their choice, in order to prove you are who you say you are and arrange new services.

Imagine going to rent an apartment. Right from your smartphone, you can prove your identity based on information you’ve already shared with your bank, prove that your credit score is over a set target and provide an authorized background check to the renter. All from your smartphone, in a matter of minutes.

Once approved, you can arrange for first and last month rent payment, set up an internet service from your telco, and add contents insurance for your new place in only a few clicks more. With the underlying technology from IBM and SecureKey, and the ecosystem of trusted companies (banks, government services, telcos, etc) already on board to offer the service, that reality is near.

The best part about this ecosystem, apart from the convenience, is that it is entirely impossible for any organization within this system to see information, unless the user has confirmed the business’ right.

IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric is an integral part to that success, implementing the most advanced permissioned-blockchain technology to ensure your information starts private and stays private. The distributed nature of blockchain means no “honeypots” of data are ever created, which means your information remains safe and private – even from the companies you are dealing with.

As another example, our physical driver’s licenses today have one great characteristic – when you share it at a bar or liquor store to prove who you are old enough to make a purchase there, the state cannot know where you have used it (and thus can’t track its use). That separation between the original source of the information (your licence), the receiver (the bartender/cashier), and you provides the privacy that you want and deserve today.

The only issue is that even in this scenario, you’re still sharing too much information with the bartender/cashier – because along with your age (which they need to know), you’re also sharing your weight, address, height and other attributes (which they most certainly do not need to know). Online it can be even tougher to share only what you want to share, when you want to share it and with who you want to share it, without divulging other attributes that the receiving party has no need to obtain.

This is the problem we’re close to solving, both online and off. With SecureKey and IBM working together, the ecosystem approach of blanket consumer digital data protection will not just remove friction and make it easier to get things done online, in person and on the phone, but transform the way businesses – and ourselves – value our digital information.

The broken systems of today will be a thing of the past, and our real world and digital lives can truly integrate as one – with privacy, security and convenience at its core.

Originally posted on the IBM THINK Blog, March 21, 2017