Self-Sovereign Identity: The Ultimate Beginners Guide!

By then combining this data with other (meta) data from you and the friend you have contacted, these intermediaries can create a much more precise profile. For example, if your friend was talking to you about racing bikes, it might just be you targeted advertising also for racing bikes, although your conversation was Encrypted end-to-endjust because your friend was looking for racing bikes during your conversation!

While advertising about racing bikes is (mostly) harmless, these are Data correlation Large-scale practices have also been used to meddle in elections. This is partly due to the fact that power over these identifiers is in the hands of a centralized few, with almost unrestricted access to your private information.

Back to Decentralized Identifiers. We can distinguish two types of DIDs: Public DIDs & Private DIDs (sometimes referred to as “peer”, “pairwise”, “pseudonymous” or “pairwise pseudonymous” DIDs).

Private DIDs can be exchanged between two parties to get a safe channel in which no one else is privy to. This means that no third party knows what is happening on this channel or who is behind it. The best part? You can create as many separate DIDs for as many separate relationships as you see fit to prevent your private information from correlating. without relying on a single central authority. No more unwanted racing bike advertisements! (Or voting interference, hopefully).

In a world where private DIDs are the default, public DIDs, are therefore only there when a subject wants to be publicly identifiable (e.g. a government agency that issues passports). They could also be used to initiate the exchange of private DIDs between two parties.

What does that mean in practice? Imagine if the government wanted you to have one digital version of your passport next to your physical copy. You intend to keep the physical version in a safe at home and use the digital version for practical matters.

At the city service counter, you will be asked to scan a QR code. The DIDs are exchanged here, which means that the secure connection. Using this secure connection, the clerk will now issue you your digital passport in the form of a verifiable ID. You accept it and store it in your (digital) wallet.

On the way home you decide to get yourself a bottle of wine with dinner, and since you use night cream, the cashier asks for your ID. You don’t want to share a lot of private information with a stranger (e.g. full name, date of birth, place of birth, document number, etc.), so generate a QR code from your wallet that proves you are the legal drinking age!

The cashier scans it (again exchanging DIDs, establishing a secure connection) and verifies that this is the case Proof is indeed true and derived from a valid ID issued by a valid authority. This all happens automatically in the backend, partly by checking the public DID of the municipality as well as the schema, the credential definition and the revocation register, all of which are registered in the verifiable data register or in the blockchain. Hello private vino for dinner!

DIDs also benefit institutions and organizations that Issue or verify identity. Her decentralized Nature always makes identity available for verification. Contrasted with a system where the identity resides in a centralized database which can become useless if for some reason it goes offline (or in the worst case, is destroyed).

Kim Hamilton Duffy, Co-chair of the W3C Credentials Community Group and architect of the Digital Academic Credentials Initiative (MIT), sees DIDs as an important tool for the dissemination of Self-sovereign identity. Managing cryptographic keys is a cumbersome process. DIDs make it easy for a person to “retain ownership of their identifiers over time”. Kim adds, “They provide cryptographic strength while taking into account the full lifecycle of keys, including expiration and revocation.” Decentralized identifiers help prevent a “situation in which all of a person’s data is tied to a single individual identity profile” by allowing a person to have as many DIDs as they want in order to “set their identity profiles curate and increase their privacy ”. “. (Source)

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