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How Verifiable Digital Identity Will Protect Your Post-Pandemic Privacy

Be[in]crypto | David Lucatch | March 2, 2021

digital identity a basic human right - How Verifiable Digital Identity Will Protect Your Post-Pandemic Privacy

In Brief

  • COVID-19 has changed the very fabric of our world and how we live our daily lives.
  • The use cases of user-controlled digital credentials are nearly limitless.
  • We must continue to support regulation like GDPR in the EU, CCPA in California, PEPIDA in Canada, and others.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the very fabric of our world and how we live our daily lives. 

For example, consumer online spending with US retailers increased 44% in 2020, compared to 2019, according to the latest Digital Commerce 360 analysis.

International tourist arrivals declined by 74% (roughly one billion fewer trips) in 2020, compared to the previous year, making it “the worst year in tourism history.” Plus, 29% of polled working professionals said they would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue working remotely, as the world begins to reopen.

All of these changes will impact the way that business is done moving forward. They will push organizations to closely consider the vulnerabilities of their current online and on-premise privacy and data management policies and procedures.

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The internet has always been susceptible to fraudulent activities. Think for a moment back to the iconic New Yorker cartoon, which first appeared in July 1993 when the internet was in its mainstream infancy.

The “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” pictorial demonstrates that from its initial inception, there have been myriad online opportunists leveraging the internet to misrepresent who they are.

While the pandemic has largely kept the world at home for almost a year now, we have seen online shopping and virtual banking transactions consequently skyrocket making the inherent vulnerability for the digital consumer much more obvious.

The “trusted triangle” concept

While the internet does not provide its own secure trust layer, there are still some solutions available to proactively protect one’s digital identity.

The idea of “identity” is based around the concept of a mutual, trusted relationship between parties through which each person has a basic understanding of who the other person is. One such solution involves using a “trusted triangle” process, similar to the conducting of an e-commerce transaction.

When e-commerce transactions are conducted online (whether for retail, healthcare, travel, education, or entertainment purposes), a trust triangle is formed, with the issuer, the holder, and the verifier serving as the three corners.

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All parties involved want to be certain that the individuals within the ecosystem have gone through a verification process. In retail transactions, for example, the verifier must confirm the cardholder, the validity of the card being used, and the legitimacy of the issuing organization before the retailer should accept the payment.

However, in these types of transactions, does the verifier or issuer really know that the cardholder is who they purport themselves to be? Or are they just someone with the right information at the time of the transaction?

Proving you are who you say you are

Using verifiable credentials, individuals, or holders, use a digital wallet that can carry multiple types of verifiable identity credentials in a user-managed and controlled device or cloud-based platform.

Individuals are then able to securely store, control, and share their most valuable information through that self-sovereign wallet. This includes access credentials like passwords, proof of educational degrees, certificate completion, membership cards, government credentials, and healthcare credentials.

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Within this digital ecosystem, verifiers — employers, schools, airlines, and others —  will be able to request a verifiable, reputable presentation of credentials to determine acceptance. Thus, they will ensure that individuals are who they say they are and possess the necessary credentials to enter or participate.

I believe ownership, management, and control of one’s personal online identity is a basic human right. Just as a person has the right to control the use of their name and who has access to medical information, individuals should have the right to own and be the sole beneficiary of their valuable digital data.

If a digital wallet is controlled by the service provider who issued the wallet, then the user is neither sovereign nor completely private while making transactions.

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