Own it: Identity on the blockchain

Luke Shipley is the CEO of Zinc (www.zinc.work), a blockchain based hiring platform that is creating a platform to bring trust, credibility and privacy back to referencing within the recruitment sector. He shares his insight regarding the role blockchain has in relation to identity…

Viewed by many as the blockchain holy grail, the race is on to create a meaningful identity solution that can be anchored to a blockchain.

By handing over our details to every company and organisation that asks for them, over time, we have put them in the business of identity management and inadvertently given them the responsibility (and power) of managing and protecting our data. A number of high profile incidents have led to a significant groundswell that this needs to change, and quickly.

Blockchain identity management would offer a compelling solution with the ideal scenario of ‘self-sovereign’ digital identities that are completely decentralised in their management and ownership. There is a surge of innovation in this space, and I have absorbed with interest the focus and discussion of bringing what we understand as physical assets (passports, birth certificates, driving licenses etc…) onto the blockchain, and recording proof of physical identities, rather than relying on the physical identity document itself. The analysts have put their markers down and there’s a race to find a working solution that takes hold. Many of the big players are involved like Deloitte (https://www.deloitte.co.uk/smartid/), Microsoft, Accenture, IBM and Mastercard (https://identity.foundation/).

Whilst the potential is there, neither the technology nor the consumer understanding is widespread enough to enable this to be one of the first blockchain identity proofs. The risk of losing your users passport credentials to countless people forever are too big for anyone to swallow currently. The technology and its acceptance are simply not at this point…yet.

However, whilst ‘government grade’ physical proofs will not be one of the first mainstream identity solutions on the blockchain, there are other ‘proofs’ that build up important aspects of our identity, often more frequently exercised day to day.

Social Proofs

I believe that social identities that contain less sensitive information will become the first mainstream identity solution on the blockchain. For example, a Twitter network, or Facebook network, can be valuable forms of identity proof that give more information and context to a person than their national ID. One further example, that is central to the work we are doing at Zinc, is work proofs.

A work proof, which is verified proof of any type of work (past jobs, courses, certificates), is unique in its nature, in that it holds what is generally perceived as public information, yet it is of value to both its owner and anyone that wants to view or access it. By recording these somewhat less sensitive, yet valuable proofs on the blockchain, we will have our first real use case for identity management.

By utilising the blockchain to record proof of work information, individuals will have ownership and control of their work reputation and identity, and what information to share with recruiters and companies.

In time, digital and verified records will become the norm across every industry. It’s an infrastructure that makes sense. It will allow people to avoid sharing assets of their identity all over the world and the web. For instance, your passport proof could be used to open a bank account, get credit, hire a car, enter a bar or travel. There is a huge opportunity to ‘make better’ what is already in existence, by using technology that is ready and available. The stage is set and I anticipate 2019 to be the year we see big changes in how identity can be anchored to the blockchain.

Luke Shipley, CEO of Zinc (www.zinc.work)

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