From Voting To Social Media: What Does The Future Hold For Digital Identity On The Blockchain

Forbes | Lawrence Wintermeyer | Oct 30, 2020

fast car - From Voting To Social Media: What Does The Future Hold For Digital Identity On The Blockchain The CEO’s of America’s tech giants Twitter and Facebook were grilled by the Senate on the Hill this week putting social media and free speech in the spotlight. At the forefront of this debate are the rules governing the immunity from liability social media companies have which is created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act in the U.S.

Section 230 means that users on social medial platforms can say whatever they wish and the social media companies are not liable for it, or the repercussions. I can think of no other sector or industry that enjoys this immunity – it appears a licence to print whatever drives user volumes to deliver advertising revenues with little consideration for the content or the identity and provenance of the individual who’s voice we are hearing.

See: House Lawmakers Condemn Big Tech’s ‘Monopoly Power’ and Urge Their Breakups

Now, most of us in the free world wish to protect our right to free speech, but only ten percent of Americans think social media are beneficial with two-thirds believing they cause harm.

 This is not surprising with reports of fake news, foreign actors manipulating news and communities, the rise of identify politics and hate speech, and social media companies themselves accused of misusing our private data.

The global financial system is held to account when it comes to identity, a process that is know as Know Your Customer or KYC. To open up a bank account, you need to provide proof of who you really are. Though the KYC process can be a bit clunky, it can be done online and efficiently these days and must be a serious consideration for policy makers when it comes to social media or postal voting (which should be done from your phone).

One of the biggest emerging use cases for blockchain is in the realm of decentralized digital identity, wherein governments and enterprises collect, verify and manage citizens’ personal data on-chain. The aim is to replace the legacy of various storage systems and databases governed by unwieldy and often insecure centralized authorities and agencies.

See: Do Central Bank Digital Currencies need a blockchain operating system?

Given the sensitivity of such data, a blockchain-based identity system has its strengths with features such as hashing functions, digital signatures, and zero-knowledge proofs protecting our information against theft or loss.

In the context of elections, these properties of blockchain offer several other attractive possibilities. Digital signatures are completely secure, acting as a timestamped confirmation that a vote has been cast. This confirmation can be viewed transparently on the blockchain, with the zero-knowledge proof acting as evidence that the vote was cast without identifying the individual. The vote itself is an immutable record - it cannot be changed after the fact.

In the context of COVID-19, the pandemic necessitated the distribution of emergency funds to citizens, which were partly calculated based on the taxes they’ve paid. A single, blockchain-based identity record could overcome these challenges by providing a single point of truth for government departments.

 

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