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The revolution in identity | Ctrl-Shift

Posted on: Monday 5th of September 2016

Millions of people every day have to do identify themselves to service providers and reassure these providers that it really is them. They do so to varying degrees of assurance: sometimes an email address and password is enough. Sometimes, they have to go through a rigorous process of inspection – when applying for a passport, for government benefits, or a bank account for example.

Systems and processes to manage identities have grown by topsy, with thousands of different organisations all inventing their own approaches to suit their own needs and circumstances. Today, as a result, we have a vast and complicated identity system that is entirely organization-centric: it solves the problem for each organisation, but fails to see the issues it creates for customers, consumers and citizens. As individuals, we are splintered into hundreds of different mini-identities, all of them designed to fit the different and separate processes established by the organisation they are dealing with. The costs, for both individuals and organisations, is immense.

But now a new approach to identity is emerging. What if every individual had their own electronic proof of identity that they could carry from one organisation to another (rather like Facebook Connect) where the levels of assurance and security are very high, and where the individual can control how much information they hand over?

And what if they could attach other bits of information to these identities: their qualifications, marital status, interests, employment history, financial status, legal history – the list is potentially endless.

In this world, individuals could go from organisation to organisation quickly and simply, able to prove they are who they say they are, and also able to bring rich and powerful sets of new information to the relationships they choose to engage in.

In such a world of rich information exchange, every organisation would evolve to become attribute providers – ‘yes, I can confirm that John works for us’. ‘Yes, I can confirm that Jane has a degree from our university’. They would also evolve into becoming attribute users, using the attributes provided by individuals to streamline and personalise the services they offer.

Many people and organisations are now working to make this vision a reality. It makes sense for organisations, in terms of cost, risk and access to data. And it makes sense of individuals, reducing hassle, increasing control, and improving access to services. And the new infrastructure it creates is destined to become a rich platform for service innovation – making many new personalised services easier and cheaper to provide, for example.

We’ll be exploring these opportunities (and associated challenges) at our Achieving Growth Through Trust conference on September 29. We’ll hear, for example, from Sovrin who are building a free-to-use, open-source global identity network that puts the individual at the centre of the digital ecosystem. Based on a self-sovereign identity technology, Sovrin plans to transform the world of identity not only in advanced industrial countries but in developing economies too.

As the revolution in identity and verified attributes takes hold, dealings between organisations and their customers will be transformed. This is your chance to be at the forefront of a development that will define commerce for decades to come.